In Brief

Illegal migrants to be used as ‘whistle-blowers’ to convict traffickers

National Crime Agency to offer more lenient treatment to immigration offenders who help jail smugglers

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is hoping to turn illegal immigrants into “whistle-blowers” by offering to handle immigration offences “more sensitively” for those who help police.

Rob Richardson, the head of the organisation’s human trafficking unit, told The Times that prosecutions are difficult to secure unless victims go on the record. But NCA bosses hope to achieve more arrests and convictions by giving illegal workers the chance to improve their odds of being able to stay in the UK if they speak out.

 Although the offer is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card”, adds the newspaper, Richardson says there is “a balance to be had”.

“If people are in exploitative situations or are being exploited, we have a duty of care to them as well,” he said. “If an immigration offence has been committed that would have to be investigated, but it would be investigated sensitively.” 

In early May, the BBC reported a coronavirus “lockdown spike” in migrants intercepted crossing the English Channel into the UK. On the Friday of the May Day bank holiday, eight boats carrying 145 people were stopped - a new record for a single day. A further 82 were intercepted in the following 24 hours.

Tho migrants picked up by Border Force officials claimed to be Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Syrian and Afghan nationals, according to the broadcaster.

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Outlining the new plan to crack down on traffickers, Robinson said the NCA had feared that the closure of many service businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic would see “illegal workers being abandoned onto the streets by gangs who had no use for them”.

However, intelligence and local police reports suggest that trafficked workers have been moved into other jobs, including sexual exploitation on “pay-per-view video sites”. Richardson said: “Organised crime moves to where there is an opportunity to make money. If it cannot make money where it is, it will move elsewhere.”

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