Britain and Turkey to smash smuggler gangs transporting migrants

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Britain and Turkey have vowed to smash the gangs smuggling tens of thousands of migrants and “death trap” dinghies across Europe.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said a “network of allies” must meet the smugglers head-on after a landmark deal was struck between London and Ankara.

More National Crime Agency officers will be deployed to Turkey to work alongside their Turkish counterparts on joint operations targeting criminal gangs and dinghy factories.

Officials want to go after the networks’ supply chains and seize items such as engines and life jackets as they are “vital” to their tactics.

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Robert Jenrick told the Daily Express: “The beaches of northern France are the goal-line; we must smash the gangs and facilitators upstream, long before they are in striking distance of the UK. 

“Hundreds of flimsy and unseaworthy small boats and engines are transported through Europe each year for the purpose of illegal migration. 

“Each consignment is a death trap; each seizure is an opportunity to save lives, end the human misery and stop illegal migrants reaching our shores.

“I am determined that the UK is a leading global force in tackling illegal migration and a partner of choice to all those allies who share our determination to defeat it.”

Turkey has been identified as a key hub for smuggling gangs, with many of the vessels used to cross the Channel manufactured there.

Border Force sources said the vessels are produced using a similar plastic to that found in children’s bouncy castles, before being rolled up onto a pallet and loaded into the back of a lorry.

Many migrants hoping to reach Britain also begin their journey there and pay smugglers thousands to cross the continent.

The new agreement – signed by Britain and Turkey – says the two nations will share more intelligence on the gangs known to be operating across Europe.

And a new headquarters will be established in Turkey, meaning National Crime Agency and Home Office intelligence personnel will work alongside their Turkish counterparts for the first time.

Officials insisted this will mean they can react to intelligence quicker. 

Hundreds of boats are driven across Europe every year, the Home Office said, and both Britain and Turkey will demand other European countries do more to tackle illegal migration during international summits, the agreement states.

Turkey has been identified as a key hub for smuggling gangs, with many of the vessels used to cross the Channel manufactured there.

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Mr Jenrick told the Daily Express: “We will be intensively sharing intelligence, people and technology to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling gangs and the manufacture and supply of materials which enable small boat crossings. 

“Our deepened partnership includes support by the UK for a new centre based in Turkey to be established by the Turkish National Police, which will act as a new operational “Centre of Excellence” to tackle this challenge. 

“This is backed with increased cooperation between cutting-edge UK and Turkish intelligence which will allow operational staff to share more information, more quickly – and help prevent the movement of small boat supplies and materials into Western Europe.” 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “As I’ve made clear, we must do everything we can to smash the people smuggling gangs and stop the boats.    

“Our partnership with Turkey, a close friend and ally, will enable our law enforcement agencies to work together on this international problem and tackle the small boat supply chain.”   

The announcement comes after a Daily Express investigation revealed how Turkey is a key hub for smuggling gangs.

An Iraqi-Kurdish criminal, Ari, revealed intricate details about the complex smuggling operation and admitted many of the boats are made in Turkey.

He said the traffickers each operate a route of their own and co-exist alongside each other.

Ari said: “Here it is a free system. Everybody uses their own road, their own system. It is free, it is not only one road.”

He claimed many migrants are attempting to cross Europe because they know there are “many” boats to the UK,

Some 15,121 migrants have arrived in the UK by small boat this year, after 45,755 crossed last year.

But the number of migrants crossing into Europe has increased by 10 percent, compared to last year, with 132,370 reaching the continent illegally.

More than 50,000 of these crossed over the Turkish border, analysis by the EU’s external borders agency, Frontex, revealed.

Another 65,000 have crossed into Europe from Libya and Tunisia.

And Mr Jenrick has visited both of these countries in a bid to shore up Europe’s defences against the smuggling gangs seeking to trade in human misery.

The National Crime Agency wants to disrupt smuggling gangs “at every step of the route, in source countries, in transit countries such as Greece, Italy and Turkey, near the UK border in France and Belgium, and those operating inside the UK itself.”

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