News story

UK steps up counter-smuggling efforts

Government expands and extends UK law enforcement taskforce to tackle criminal gangs behind the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

  • Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce expanded to more than 100 posts, operating in 10 countries
  • government also commits additional £44 million to keep taskforce running until 2020
  • builds on UK’s comprehensive approach to tackling people smuggling both at home and overseas

The Prime Minister has confirmed that the government will expand and extend a UK law enforcement taskforce set up to tackle the criminal gangs behind the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

Announced by the Prime Minister in June, the Organised Immigration Crime (OIC) Taskforce will also have its funding extended until 2020 – bringing the total amount committed to more than £50 million.

The taskforce will have the number of posts increased from 90 to more than 100. This means it will be able to operate even more comprehensively in the UK and the 10 countries it has officers in across the European Union and Africa.

The announcement comes as the Prime Minister prepares to visit HMS Bulwark later today (11 November 2015), where crew from HMS Bulwark, HMS Enterprise and HMS Richmond will brief him on counter-smuggling efforts. Crew from these 3 ships helped save 8,000 lives as part of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean this summer.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

While we must continue to do all we can to help those fleeing fear and persecution, we must also continue our efforts to break the link between setting off in a boat and achieving settlement in Europe.

So as part of our comprehensive approach, it is absolutely right that we ensure this dedicated law enforcement team has the resources it needs to smash these human trafficking gangs and protect the UK from this threat.

Since it was established in June, the taskforce has been working with international partners to actively share intelligence and progress criminal investigations, building on existing UK work. This has helped disrupt more than 60 organised crime groups this year.

The OIC is providing continued support to Europol and Frontex. National Crime Agency (NCA) officers have been deployed to Europol and the EU Regional Taskforce in Sicily – an intelligence cell purely focused on probing people-smuggling networks.

Other action the OIC Taskforce has undertaken includes:

  • building capacity in key source and transit countries, including deploying staff to West, East and North Africa
  • working closer with the NCA’s National Intelligence Hub by establishing a dedicated investigations team in the UK
  • liaising with the National Maritime Information Centre to monitor vessels in the Mediterranean

The OIC Taskforce has also established a UK-based joint debriefing team, comprising of officers from the NCA, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and Kent Police.

This team is responsible for debriefing migrants that arrive in the UK to gather intelligence on methods and structure of organised crime groups responsible for people smuggling.

Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce

Announced by the Prime Minister in June 2015, the Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce brings together officers from the NCA, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and the Crown Prosecution Service. Its role is to exploit every opportunity at source, in transit countries and in Europe, to tackle organised crime gangs’ criminal operations. Over £7 million has been committed to fund the taskforce this year.

The OIC Taskforce builds on the existing progress made by Immigration Enforcement and others to tackle smuggling gangs. Over the last year, UK law enforcement has disrupted over 170 organised crime groups.

Published 11 November 2015