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The term 'organised immigration crime' is used to describe both the facilitation of illegal entry into, and presence in, the country and also human trafficking.
The most common clandestine ways for migrants to enter the UK are in Lorries or other commercial vehicles transported by rail or ferry, in commercial shipping containers, or in small boats. Organised gangs frequently smuggle people in hard-sided Lorries, more opportunist smuggling tends to be in soft-sided Lorries. Most methods of transport subject migrants to significant personal risk.
Between March 1 and March 5, Hampshire Constabulary’s specialist teams have been working with Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, Bedfordshire Police and Thames Valley Police in and outside of Hampshire to raise awareness about this crime, letting people know about the signs to look out for and encouraging the local community to report any suspicious behaviour or incidents.
Part of this work has been working closely with Border Force and supporting their Clandestine Entry Penalties Team on various road networks travelling northbound from UK Ports. This has involved our Roads Policing Teams, Commercial Vehicle Unit, and Neighbourhood Policing Teams all working collaboratively to stop Lorries, educate drivers and haulier companies coming from overseas to the UK to implement better security in order to restrict clandestine entry and disrupt organised crime gangs.
Over the week, we undertook activity that looked to:
• Disrupt organised crime gangs who facilitate clandestine entry into the UK
• Encourage hauliers to implement better security on hard and soft sided lorries though stop checks and enforcing Border Force penalties
• Identify and protect those found to be trafficked
People smuggling costs lives and this collaborative work looks to target criminals who are exploiting vulnerable people into being transported into the UK illegally through dangerous methods.
All the penalties were outstanding fines which had been applied to haulier companies by Border Force for previously being found with people on board following a border crossing.
On Monday 1 March we worked out of Toddington Services and Newport Pagnell Services in collaboration with our colleagues in Thames Valley Police, Bedfordshire Police, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement. In total, we stopped 100 Lorries and assisted in recovering £18,000 worth of previously applied penalties. One lorry was seized by Border Force at Newport Pagnell as they refused to pay a fine.
On Tuesday 2 March our Joint Operations Unit stopped 10 freight vehicles at Tot Hill heading northbound from Portsmouth Port and 40 at Chieveley. Together we were able to assist Border Force in recovering £33,000 in penalties.
On Wednesday 3 March, Hampshire Constabulary’s Organised Immigration Crime (OIC) Team went out with our Marine Unit and worked with the Harbour Master to raise awareness around organised immigration crime.
On Thursday 4 March, the OIC team attended 10 service stations in Portsmouth to highlight the Crimestoppers campaign ‘Say No to People Smuggling’ to both employees and members of the public. We know many Lorries stop at these stations when leaving Portsmouth International Port and therefore it’s important that any signs of organised immigration crime, such as noises coming from a lorry, or people hiding under vehicles or hiding within are recognised and reported.
On Friday 5 March our Joint Operations Unit with Thames Valley Police conducted further work at Reading Services to support Border Force and stopped 50 HGVs and helped recover a further £22,300 in penalties from hauliers.
This is a partnership effort by a number of police forces that share road networks inbound from UK Ports to disrupt organised crime gangs enabling people smuggling into the UK.
Luckily, out of 200 HGV stops, no one was found in the back of these Lorries.
Hampshire Constabulary’s lead for Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime, Detective Chief Inspector Ross Toms said: “Criminals are making cash by illegally smuggling desperate and vulnerable people into the UK through dangerous methods. By working with neighbouring police forces, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement, service stations, and members of the public, we are doing all we can to tackle the issue together.
“It is important to remember that those who are smuggled are then often forced into modern slavery and other crime, having been promised a better life in the UK and forced to pay large amounts of money to get here, to organised crime gangs.
“There are also serious penalties for those caught helping to smuggle people into the UK in the back of lorries. They could be arrested and investigated and their employer could face substantial fines for not having appropriate security.
“We would advise anyone who thinks that there may be people trapped in a lorry or vehicle to report it to police immediately to 999 as a life could be put at risk.
“Following this week of action, we will continue to raise awareness about this crime, letting people know about the signs to look out for and encouraging the local community to report any suspicious behaviour to us - or independent charity Crimestoppers.”
For more information about the work going on to tackle organised immigration crime please visit https://crimestoppers-uk.org/campaigns-media/campaigns/say-no-to-people-smuggling