Albanian migrants allowed to stay in UK as victims of modern slavery arrested for people smuggling – WhatsNew2Day

Two Albanians allowed to stay in the UK as victims of modern slavery have been arrested on suspicion of running a people smuggling ring.

The pair arrived in a small boat last May and were detained before being released with an electronic tag.

They won their claim to be victims of modern slavery and were given discretionary leave to remain as well as access to benefits and support.

But they were arrested in Belgium when the National Crime Agency and Belgian police foiled an alleged attempt to smuggle migrants to the UK using a high-speed inflatable.

FILE PIC: Migrants are brought into Dover by a Border Force RHIB

The pair, who were living in Basingstoke in Hampshire, allegedly took the boat from the UK to Belgium to collect 12 Albanians in the early hours of October 30.

Police were waiting for the boat and arrested the pair off the coast of De Panne in west Flanders a short time later.

Officers found 12 Albanians – eight men, three women and a child aged five – waiting to board. The alleged smugglers are being held in prison in Bruges.

A third man, 46, was arrested by the NCA in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, later the same day on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration. He remains in custody and is being questioned.

The trio are alleged to be part of a gang behind a series of people smuggling runs to the UK from Europe.

A Belgian source said: ‘The boat used by this organisation was much more powerful than the boats we have intercepted in recent months. In recent months, it has always been very small boats, usually of questionable quality, which were still transported in the original box.

File Pic: Migrants Are Brought Into Dover By A Border Force Rhib

FILE PIC: Migrants are brought into Dover by a Border Force RHIB

File Pic: A Group Of People Thought To Be Migrants Are Brought In To Dover, Kent, Onboard A Border Force Vessel

FILE PIC: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel

‘The mode of operation of this Albanian smuggling organisation is completely different: they use a faster and larger boat of better quality, powered by two engines, which can make the crossing to and from the United Kingdom much faster.

‘This is clearly a very well organised form of human smuggling. Not only must a more expensive boat be purchased, one must also ensure that refugees – in this case Albanian men, women and a child – are in the dunes at the right time ready to jump into the boat when it reaches the coast. ‘Everything has to go fast to go unnoticed. This requires coordination, and it underlines that it is a well-organised gang.’

Government data showed Albanian migrants made up more than half of modern slavery claims lodged by small-boat arrivals in the first half of last year.

Government data showed just over 51 per cent of Channel migrants who claimed they had been exploited were from the Balkan country. The figure was just over 11 per cent in 2021.

Last month the Albanian ambassador to Britain admitted that migrants from his country were ‘pretending’ to be victims of modern slavery.

And in November NCA officials said Albanian criminals were committing ‘blatant manipulation’ of modern slavery laws and had even been ‘coached’ on what to say if they were arrested.

Lodging a modern slavery claim brings a halt to criminal investigations and Home Office deportation efforts while the case is investigated, usually leading to delay of a year or more.

File Pic: A Group Of People Thought To Be Migrants Wait To Be Processed After Being Brought In To Dover, Kent, Onboard A Border Force Vessel, Following A Small Boat Incident In The Channel

FILE PIC: A group of people thought to be migrants wait to be processed after being brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel, following a small boat incident in the Channel

File Pic: A Group Of Migrants Walk Through A Processing Centre In Dover

FILE PIC: A group of migrants walk through a processing centre in Dover

The alleged smugglers received a ‘conclusive grounds decision’ on their claim, meaning they were allowed to stay in the UK and receive accommodation, financial support and access to a support worker for a minimum of 45 days.

Rishi Sunak has unveiled a five-point plan to tackle the Channel crisis which includes raising the threshold for modern slavery claims. Evidence of exploitation will be required rather than simply ‘suspicion’.

The Government is under huge pressure to address the problem over fears failure to do so would be fatal for the Conservatives at the next election.

Whitehall projections show the number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats could nearly double this year.

Border Force sources say as many as 80,000 could make the dangerous journey in 2023 – up from 45,000 last year.

A government source said: ‘The Home Secretary and Prime Minister have laid out plans to urgently reform modern slavery laws to stop illegal migrants conning the British people.

‘It’s an insult to genuine victims who need protection and that’s why this Government is determined to crack down on the abuse.’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are reviewing the protections we offer to people who claim to be victims of modern slavery, so that those who seek to abuse the protections we offer do not benefit from the world leading support we provide to genuine victims.’

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