The National Crime Agency (NCA) issued a warning after the number of refugees attempting to enter the UK in small boats to cross the English Channel “increased significantly”.
It warns the UK shipping industry that “organized crime groups could target them to get small boats for people smugglers”.
“Since the introduction of the global Covid-19 lockdown measures in March 2020, the number of migrants attempting to enter the UK in small boats has increased significantly,” an NCA spokesman said.
“UK law enforcement detected more than 8,000 migrant arrivals in 2020.”
“This has led to an increase in demand for ships designed to assist migrants crossing the canal. Demand is expected to continue as weather conditions improve in spring and summer.
“Organized crime groups are known to target legitimate sellers of ships and equipment such as outboards and life jackets both in person and online. There have also been incidents of boats and equipment being stolen.
“The NCA has conducted a number of operations targeting those supplying boats to people smugglers. However, the agency is encouraging industry officials to report any concerns or suspicious activity related to the purchase of boating equipment.
“After a number of attempted thefts, boat and ship equipment owners are also being asked to pay special attention to security guidelines to ensure that ships and equipment are properly secured.
“They can also help by being vigilant and reporting strange activity or behavior, and making sure theft, especially ships or engines, is reported promptly.
“Anyone contacting Crimestoppers with information should include the warning number” 0647-OIC “.
“Anyone who lives or works on our coast, in marinas, ports or waterways and sees something they think is suspicious can always call the police on 101 and quote the KRAKEN project or gov.uk/report-border- visit crime. “
The NCA Alert provides a number of examples of potentially suspicious activity, including:
- Cash is used in large sums to make payments;
- Unusual combination of boats and equipment in one transaction;
- Inquiries for bulk purchase of equipment, d. H. Life jackets;
- Repeat the purchase of boats and / or equipment from the same dealer.
- Lack of concern about the condition of the boat or equipment purchased, or an indication that it may not be intended for the buyer;
- Customers who want to complete their transaction and collection asap.
- Online shoppers traveling to collect the boat and / or avoiding a fixed delivery address.
Miles Bonfield, NCA Director of Organized Immigrant Crime, said: “Today we appeal directly to those in the maritime and maritime industries to help stop those involved in organized human smuggling.
“Crossing the canal in such ships is extremely dangerous and life-threatening. However, the organized crime groups involved do not care about safety or welfare, they see migrants only as a commodity that must be exploited.”
“We are already working closely with a number of partners in the UK and on the continent to target the supply of these ships. Now we are asking UK industry to help us and report any suspicions.”
“Essentially, we want people to follow their gut instincts. They know their industry and their customers well. If you feel that something is not quite right or seems unusual, please report it to the Crimestoppers, either by phone on 0800 555 111 or online. You will remain anonymous. “
Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, the trade association for the UK’s recreational, superyacht and small commercial shipping industries, said, “We are excited to be working with the NCA to raise awareness of this issue and reduce criminal activity.
“The NCA plays a key role in supporting the safety of the shipping industry. Today’s small boat organized crime warning is ultimately a safety issue that the British Marine and our members take very seriously.
“The UK recreational boating industry always has its role to play and I am confident that the members of the UK Navy will take the lead in this area and share the warnings and ‘red flags’ that should be heeded in their businesses.”