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Migrants are being forced onto rafts made from multiple dinghies TAPED together as people smugglers resort to more dangerous tactics to boost numbers crossing Channel

  • Smuggling gangs have been taping boats together to fit more migrants on them
  • These makeshift boats are known to carry as many as 85 people onto the water
  • It comes as migrants try to arrive ahead of the Rwanda scheme being imposed
  • The controversial scheme had been due begin in May, but it has been delayed

Migrants are being forced onto rafts made of multiple dinghies taped together as people smugglers use dangerous new tactics to boost the numbers they’re sending across the channel. 

Desperate families making their way from France to the UK are being put in increasingly dangerous situations as human traffickers tell them it’s their ‘last chance’ to get to the UK before the Rwanda scheme.

But those who do attempt the journey are being lied to by the money-grubbing gangs, as even if they arrive now they could still be sent to Rwanda when the scheme gets underway in the coming months. 

Some marine experts say those going onto the water are even being given ‘lifejackets’ filled with foam which makes it more likely for them to drown as it becomes waterlogged.

The ‘ruthless and cut-throat’ smuggling operations have begun to use the new techniques as they urge people to get across before the Government begins sending migrants to Rwanda.

The controversial policy, which will see £120 million spent flying migrants to the east African country, had been due to start at the end of May, but has been delayed after challenges from what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has branded ‘liberal lawyers’.

A woman and child arrive in Dover. Several hundred migrants have crossed the English channel in small boats in recent days, after a nearly two-week period of no detected arrivals, likely due to strong winds

A woman and child arrive in Dover. Several hundred migrants have crossed the English channel in small boats in recent days, after a nearly two-week period of no detected arrivals, likely due to strong winds

People smugglers have been seen using new, dangerous techniques to transport as many people as possible across the English Channel. Pictured are a man and woman arriving in Dover

People smugglers have been seen using new, dangerous techniques to transport as many people as possible across the English Channel. Pictured are a man and woman arriving in Dover

Migrants trying to cross the Channel are being forced onto rafts of dinghies taped together by people smugglers. Pictured is a group of migrants arriving in Dover

Migrants trying to cross the Channel are being forced onto rafts of dinghies taped together by people smugglers. Pictured is a group of migrants arriving in Dover

Pictured: Unsafe boats found last year being held together with boards of wood and masking tape. Smugglers are taping these together to form larger rafts that can carry more people

Pictured: Unsafe boats found last year being held together with boards of wood and masking tape. Smugglers are taping these together to form larger rafts that can carry more people

Figures show that more than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year. Pictured are migrants brought in on a Border Force boat

Figures show that more than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year. Pictured are migrants brought in on a Border Force boat

In the meantime, the Border Force says it has seen smugglers increasing the number of people they can take onto the water with dangerous new techniques, The Times reports. 

In order to do this traffickers have been seen cutting up rigid inflatable boats (known as RIBs), pushing them together and sticking to each other with duct tape.

These boats tend to carry between 30-40 people, but some Border Force officers have found them carrying as many as 84.

What is the Rwanda scheme?

What is the scheme?

The Government announced plans to send thousands of migrants to Rwanda, in east Africa, last month. 

The scheme is designed to deter economic migrants by showing even if they reach the UK, they’re not allowed to remain here. 

When they arrive in Rwanda, asylum seekers will have their claims processed and if approved, will be allowed to stay in Rwanda. They will not be allowed to return to the UK. 

Those who fail in their asylum applications will be deported back to their home country. 

Who is eligible?

People arriving in the UK illegally, including in small boats and lorries, will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.

It will apply to anyone who arrived in the UK from January 1, this year, and not just people arriving after the first flights have been arranged. 

Ministers have said the scheme is meant to be focused on single, young men, but anyone regardless of sex is eligible.

The Government says families will not be broken up and unaccompanied children will not be sent.

How much will it cost?

The Government says the scheme will cost £120 million, but critics have predicted it would cost considerably more.

Think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research pointed out that Australia’s scheme has cost taxpayers around £5.2 billion since 2013. 

Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell said housing asylum seekers at the Ritz hotel would be cheaper, putting the figure at £2million per person, per year.

When will it start?

Boris Johnson said he wanted the first flights to leave at the end of May, but this looks unlikely to happen.

The scheme is likely to be challenged in court by human rights lawyers, but ministers believe it is legal under UK and EU laws. 

Why is it so controversial?

Human rights groups, opposition MPs and backbench Tories have said the plan is cruel and expensive.

Amnesty International says there are concerns over enforced disappearances, allegations of torture and excessive use of force’ in Rwanda. 

The Government says Rwanda is a safe country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. 

Opposition leader Keir Starmer branded the PM ‘desperate’ and said the plans were ‘unworkable, extortionate and will cost the taxpayer billions of pounds’.

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By being able to carry more people on their boats, people smugglers have been able to drop their prices, with one official telling the Times that it can now cost as little as £300 per person for a place on one of the boats. 

Richard Lerdale, a senior Border Force officer, told the Times: ‘These are operating crime groups and once they have that individual at that beach it isn’t an option of ‘I don’t particularly want to actually depart on that vessel’.

‘Once they’re there there’s good evidence to suggest at that point they are forced or threatened onto that vessel. Their choice has now been taken away from them.’

Meanwhile, Carol Heginbottom, deputy director of Clandestine Channel Threat Command (CCTC) at the Home Office, said those on the boats are being given potentially lethal lifejackets filled with foam.

She said: ‘A lot of them hinder their safety because once soaked up it’s going to just drag you down and they become waterlogged within seconds. They are effectively putting on a sponge.’

She said this would keep someone alive for ‘a few minutes’ and the gangs responsible are ‘effectively sending these people to their deaths’.

Christopher Tilley, chief of staff at the CCTC said the gangs are ‘ruthless and cut-throat’ gangs are ‘pushing people across to maximise the profits’.

One source told the Express that ‘cynical’ smugglers are urging people to cross as ‘it’s their last chance to get to the UK or get sent to Rwanda’.

However, even though flights to the African country haven’t started yet, people arriving now would still be eligible to be sent there. 

The Home Office says anyone who is eligible for the scheme and who arrived after January 1, this year, could be put on a flight. 

It insists the plans, which have been heavily criticised by opposition MPs and human rights groups, will crack down on ‘evil people smuggling gangs’.  

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The entire Government is united in our efforts to prevent lethal crossings, save lives and disrupt illegal migration.

‘While there is no single solution to the global migration crisis, the Nationality and Borders Act, which passed into law last week, is a major step in overhauling our broken asylum system and protecting those in genuine need while cracking down on abuse of the system and evil people-smuggling gangs.

‘Our new Migration and Economic Development Partnership will overhaul the system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5 billion a year and will see those arriving unlawfully, including recent small boat arrivals since January, being considered for relocation to Rwanda with no cap on how many people will be sent there.’

Yesterday Boris Johnson lashed out at ‘liberal lawyers’ for delaying his plan, and vowed to ‘get it done’.

No10 revealed yesterday that the first flights in the £120million scheme would leave later than planned thanks to legal challenges.  

Mr Johnson had wanted the first economic migrants sent on a one-way trip before the end of May, but his spokesman yesterday told reporters the programme would start ‘within months’.

And on Tuesday he faced a dire warning that unless the deportation flights start soon, the crisis will overwhelm the Government and cost the Tories the crucial Northern and Midlands seats that won them the last election. 

It comes as analysis of Government figures shows 7,240 people have reached the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats in just the past four months since the start of 2022. 

They include almost 700 people who have crossed in the past three days under favourable weather conditions.  

Grilled on the subject on a pre-election visit to Southampton Airport yesterday, Mr Johnson became animated when it was suggested that the programme was in trouble.

It is being reported the 'ruthless and cut-throat' smuggling operations are urging people to get across before the Government begins sending migrants to Rwanda. Pictured: A group of migrants arrive in Dover

It is being reported the ‘ruthless and cut-throat’ smuggling operations are urging people to get across before the Government begins sending migrants to Rwanda. Pictured: A group of migrants arrive in Dover

Hundreds of crossings have been attempted in recent months by migrants packed into unsafe boats, like this one pictured in December last year

Hundreds of crossings have been attempted in recent months by migrants packed into unsafe boats, like this one pictured in December last year

‘Of course, there are going to be legal eagles, liberal lawyers, who will try to make this difficult to settle. We always knew this was going to happen, but is a very, very sensible thing,’ he said.

‘If people are coming across the Channel illegally, and if they are, their lives are being put at risk by ruthless and unscrupulous gangsters, which is what is happening at the moment.

‘You need a solution. And you need something that is going to say to those people, to those gangsters, ‘I’m sorry, but you can’t tell your customers, you can’t tell these poor people, that they’re just going to come to the UK, and they’re going to be lost in the system, because we’re going to find a way of making sure that they are going immediately to Rwanda’.

‘I think that’s a humane, compassionate and sensible thing to do. I’m not going to pretend to you that is going to be without legal challenges. I think I said that when I announced it, but we will get it done.’

Grilled on the subject on a pre-election visit to Southampton Airport today, Mr Johnson became animated when it was suggested that the programme was in trouble.

Grilled on the subject on a pre-election visit to Southampton Airport today, Mr Johnson became animated when it was suggested that the programme was in trouble.

Under the partnership agreement, people arriving in the UK, including by crossing the Channel in small boats, will be flown 4,000 miles to East Africa if they are deemed to have travelled illegally for economic reasons rather than asylum.

Under the partnership agreement, people arriving in the UK, including by crossing the Channel in small boats, will be flown 4,000 miles to East Africa if they are deemed to have travelled illegally for economic reasons rather than asylum.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children making the perilous journey across The Channel to Britain has increased by three and a half times vs last year

Under the partnership agreement, people arriving in the UK, including by crossing the Channel in small boats, will be flown 4,000 miles to East Africa if they are deemed to have travelled illegally for economic reasons rather than asylum.

But No10 today said it could not put a timescale on when the scheme will begin. Last week two asylum seekers who came to Britain in the backs of lorries this year instructed lawyers to bring a legal challenge against the policy. 

A man from Eritrea who came to the UK in February and an Iranian who arrived in March worry they will be flown to Africa because the Home Office has not yet replied to their asylum claims.

A record 28,526 migrants reached the UK illegally last year in small boats over the Channel, a 200 per cent increase on 2020

A record 28,526 migrants reached the UK illegally last year in small boats over the Channel, a 200 per cent increase on 2020

The Government has also been locked in a battle with the Church of England, which has branded the scheme 'immoral'.

The Government has also been locked in a battle with the Church of England, which has branded the scheme ‘immoral’.

The Government has also been locked in a battle with the Church of England, which has branded the scheme ‘immoral’. 

The number of unaccompanied migrant children making the perilous journey across The Channel to Britain has increased by three and a half times compared to last year.

The dramatic increase has forced the Home Office to make four hotels available to house them – twice the amount used throughout last year, according to data obtained by The Times.

Crossings continued yesterday, with young children among those being brought ashore, two of whom had to be brought out via wheelchair having sustained unspecified injuries during the journey. 

A total of 128 unaccompanied migrant children arrived in Kent from Jan 1 – April 30 last year. By comparison, 108 kids arrived in January 2022 alone.  

Suspected people smuggling ‘kingpin’ arrested 

Police have arrested a man suspected of being ‘kingpin’ involved in smuggling people across the channel.

Hewa Rahimpur was arrested by police in east London on Wednesday and now faces being extradited to Belgium. 

The 29-year-old, who was living in Ilford, was wanted by Belgian authorities ‘suspected of being a leading figure in a network said by prosecutors to be engaged in ‘systematic human-smuggling’ offences using small boats’.  

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday where extradition proceedings are expected to begin.

According to the NCA, Rahimpur is accused of sourcing boats in Turkey and having them delivered to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and then directing ‘other members of his criminal organisation to take them on to the northern French coast, from where migrants would be transported’.

The investigation began after police seized boats and outboard motors from the back of a car near the Belgian-French border in October 2021.

Jacque Beer, the NCA’s deputy director of investigations, said: ‘Rahimpur stands accused of being a major player in what we would say is one of the most significant criminal networks involved in supplying boats to people smugglers.

‘Many of the criminal gangs involved in these crossings are based outside of the UK, but where we do find they have a UK footprint we will act swiftly to disrupt and dismantle them.’

One of the ways the NCA has sought to disrupt people-smuggling networks is by targeting their supply of boats.

Andrea Wilson, the organisation’s deputy director of organised immigration crime, described some of the vessels as ‘nothing short of death-traps, held together using gaffer tape and planks of wood’.

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Source: Daily Mail

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