Missed Chance To Stop Rise In Migrant Boats
The Home Office failed to stop a rise in migrant boats crossing the English Channel before it was too late, an independent inspector has said.
Decisive action in late 2018 could have prevented crossings becoming “established”, David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said.
By early 2020 it “appeared to be too late” to stop the rise, he said.
The Home Office said it was tackling the criminals behind the crossings.
In 2018, 297 people reached the UK in small boats, with 1,840 doing so in 2019.
Nearly 8,000 people have made the journey this year, according to BBC analysis.
At least 10 people have died while attempting to cross the Channel since 2019.
On Wednesday, UK authorities intercepted four boats carrying 76 people, the Home Office said, and French authorities prevented 44 people from making the journey on the same day.
‘Lack of capacity’
Mr. Bolt said the Home Office had “neither the capacity nor the capabilities… to manage this threat more effectively”.
More needed to be done to investigate and prosecute people smugglers, he said.
Border Force officers were concerned about “what was being missed as a result” of staff being redeployed to cope with the problem, Mr Bond’s report said
Smuggling of people and goods may have increased in other parts of the UK while resources were concentrated in the South East, the report said.
Mr. Bolt said there was no clear evidence to support the Home Office’s claim that increased security measures in northern France had led to the rise in small boat crossings.
He said the number of people who reached the UK in lorries in 2019 had increased by a third compared to 2018.
“Had more decisive action been taken earlier to demonstrate that these attempts would not succeed, the route of the small boat may not have become established in the minds of many migrants and facilitators as an effective method of illegal entry,” the report said.
The inspection took place between May and December 2019 and was published eight months after being submitted to the Home Office in March 2020.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, questioned if the findings would still be “valid” due to the “massive increase [in small boat crossings this year] and the situation with coronavirus”.
“If the report is sat on for this length of time, is it truly open and transparent,” she asked.
A Home Office spokesman said the report’s publication was delayed by the complicated nature of its recommendations and the impacts of Covid-19.
The spokesman said it was “cracking down on the vile criminals smuggling vulnerable people into the UK and we continue to improve our response”.