Four in 10 migrants crossing the Channel in small boats come from peaceful Albania, where there has been no war in 25 years, according to a secret military intelligence report leaked to The Mail on Sunday.
The explosive document – marked ‘Official Sensitive’ – shows that nearly three times as many migrants arriving on the UK’s coast from France are from the Balkan country compared to anywhere else. It is the first time an official report has revealed how the bulk of those crossing illegally appear to be economic migrants taking advantage of Britain’s generous asylum system.
The report, unveiled today exclusively by The Mail on Sunday, follows a surveillance operation by the Royal Navy and defense intelligence experts from nine criminal gangs believed to be the masterminds behind most of the crossings. It reveals:
Created: Canal Migrants in Dover yesterday morning
- This summer, a total of 1,075 Albanians crossed the Channel in small boats organized by the gangs over a six-week period – nearly 40 percent of those identified as making the dangerous crossing
- The gangs buy huge inflatable boats online from Chinese factories and transport them to northern France;
- Two of the gangs – codenamed Dragon and Lotus – are modifying the boats by asking Chinese companies to make them bigger so that more migrants can be squeezed on board;
- The army’s intelligence-gathering operation is “currently limited by a lack of resources” – despite Boris Johnson making the crackdown on the smuggling gangs a priority;
- French authorities have not disclosed when they successfully halted the crossing attempts, hampering efforts to get a full picture of what the gangs are doing.
Migrants arrive in a Border Force Volunteer lifeboat, which has escorted 90 migrants picked up by Border Force in the English Channel (pictured)
The leaked report shows that of the 2,863 migrants transported by the nine gangs between June 1 and July 12 this year, 1,075 – or 37.5 percent – were Albanian.
Indeed, the total from Albania overshadowed other nationalities. Iranians made up the second highest total, with 373 migrants, or 13 percent. There were 363 migrants from Afghanistan (12.7 percent), 217 from Iraq (7.6 percent), 162 from Syria (5.7 percent) and 163 from Eritrea (5.7 percent).
The figures confirm Home Affairs Minister Priti Patel’s view that the majority of those crossing the Channel are ‘in fact economic migrants’ and ‘not genuine asylum seekers’.
Although Albania has a high poverty rate, it is a peaceful country whose leaders are negotiating accession to the EU.
Migrants after disembarking a Border Force ship escorting 70 migrants after being picked up in the English Channel (pictured)
The document also undermines criticism from left-wing critics, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, of plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In a highly political intervention earlier this year, Mr Welby claimed that the Rwanda plan raised “serious ethical questions” and cannot bear the “judgment of God”.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said last night the report shows that people are arriving “with an economic migration ticket” and abusing the asylum system. He added: “This is positive evidence that the threat we face is not an asylum problem, but an economic migration problem, leading these traffickers to abuse the asylum system. This just cannot be tolerated.
“This is absolutely clear evidence – in the face of all those on the liberal left who are clamoring for us to let everyone in – that this is an economic issue and as such it is desperate that we continue with the Rwanda program.”
Experts believe the crossings are fueled by social media, with brutal people smugglers, charging up to £5,500 per person, posting videos on TikTok to advertise their services.
An extraordinary video, posted on July 14, shows a group of Albanian men unfurling their country’s red-and-black flag, depicting a two-headed eagle, as they are crammed onto a small boat crossing the Channel.
Some 28,526 people will cross the Channel in small boats in 2021, but the total is on track to nearly double this year.
Last Monday, 696 migrants arrived, a record figure for this year. Another 250 are said to have crossed the Channel in eight inflatable boats yesterday.
Last Monday, 696 migrants arrived, a record figure for this year. Pictured: Migrants arrive in Dover
Amid growing anger at the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of tackling the problem earlier this year.
The leaked document reveals that analysts from Operation Isotrope — the military’s response to the crossings — believe they have identified nine separate organized crime groups operating along the French coast. They have each been given their own codename by intelligence analysts: Dragon, Lotus, Gorgon, Behemoth, Colossus, Titan, Tiamat, Hydra, and Leviathan. Satellites and drones are believed to have been used to identify each gang’s launch sites and track their crossings, while experts examined their boats for further clues.
The military also analyzed the nationalities of those carried by each boat.
The number of Albanians crossing the Channel appears to have risen dramatically this summer. According to government figures, a total of 757 Albanians crossed the Channel last year.
Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK, who got his hands on the leaked report, said: ‘An army of well-meaning but misguided left-wing politicians, lawyers and benefactors has drawn the line that the vast majority of people who travel these perilous journeys are desperate for fleeing war, persecution and terror.
“If these people aren’t really fleeing for their lives, then it’s not up to the British taxpayer to support them.”
A migrant after disembarking from a Border Force ship escorting 70 migrants after being picked up in the English Channel
The people-smuggling ring code-named Hydra transported 302 Albanians across the Channel in six weeks, equivalent to 62 percent of all passengers.
The gang uses shorter boats than its competitors and made 12 trips, with an average of 40 migrants on each boat.
The Dragon Gang was the most prolific, making 18 separate trips and smuggling 887 migrants, including 278 Albanians. The epicenter of the operation is the Petit Fort Philippe beach in the town of Gravelines between Calais and Dunkerque.
The gang’s network is said to have been seriously disrupted by a major police operation that led to 39 arrests in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Amazingly, Dragon, along with Lotus, have purchased specially custom boats from Chinese manufacturers.
The boats are believed to have been lengthened and stripped of “unnecessary features” to reduce costs and increase speed. [the] production time,” the report states.
The MoS has been informed that an Albanian police liaison officer will be permanently stationed in Dover to address the growing problem.
Amid growing anger at the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of tackling the problem earlier this year. Pictured: Migrants arrive in a Border Force Volunteer lifeboat
However, an interior ministry source said there is a shortage of Albanian translators to help deal with the increased number of migrants.
Disturbingly, the report reveals intelligence gathering is hampered because there is “limited to no data available on boats stopped or disrupted by the French.” This, the report explains, prevents the UK from getting an accurate picture of the ‘operational cycle’ of the people-smuggling gangs.
It adds that its fight against the gangs is “currently limited by a lack of resources, coordination between stakeholders and inconsistent data collection.”
A government spokesman said: ‘The increase in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable. People should always apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach, rather than risk their lives and fill the pockets of ruthless criminal gangs to cross the Channel.
“As part of our new migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda, we are continuing preparations to relocate those who make dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK and ultimately save lives by deterring others.”