British fishermen say they are regularly asked by people smugglers to transport migrants across the English Channel and are offered “20 to 25 times” what they usually make in a day.
Two men accused of people smuggling are due to appear in court after 20 people, including 18 Albanians, were rescued off the Kent coast at the end of May when their inflatable boat started taking on water.
More and more people are attempting to get into the UK via the Kent coastline, as there are several caves and deserted beaches, Sky News reports.
One local fisherman, who did not want to be named, says smugglers had been approaching fishermen to take migrants.
“I have been approached in the past by a man who asked if I was interested in making more money. I told him I had no interest whatsoever in smuggling drink or tobacco or drugs over from France and he said, ‘Oh, not that … people.’
“They’re offering 20 to 25 times what any fisherman can earn in a day fishing, but everyone knows it’s illegal and there’s a prison sentence at the end of it.
“There are so many bays and inlets and coves around Kent and it only takes a few minutes for these people to speed in and get picked up off the beach,” he added.
Retired trawler skipper Martin Jackson says he wrote to the Home Office last summer about what he sees as “Britain’s Achilles heel.”
“I got a polite letter back telling me not to worry and that everything is fine,” he said.
A French skipper who ferried Albanian migrants across the Channel in 2012, before being caught and prosecuted, told the Sunday Times it was easy to let people off unnoticed along Britain’s south coast.
Didier Corfec said he let passengers off on a deserted dock up the river Dart to Dittisham, Devon.
“I wished them good luck and went to the pub,” he said.
It was easy to drop people ashore during the winter months as “there’s no one about,” he said.
Corfec said he was paid £786 ($1,134) per passenger for the two journeys he made at the start of 2012.
Last week, the government announced it would invest more resources into preventing migrants, weapons and drugs crossing the Channel.
Three maritime hubs will be set up to improve intelligence and surveillance, and the Border Force, which currently has three vessels, will get six extra patrol boats in the coming months.
Border Force officers have also been given extra powers to stop, board, divert and detain vessels, and make arrests.
But aerial surveillance of the Channel has been cut back. In January, Home Secretary Theresa May cancelled the aerial monitoring of the English Channel by aviation firm Cobham in a bid to save money.
The Home Office now relies solely on aerial surveillance conducted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which is called in on an ad-hoc basis rather than the round-the-clock monitoring Cobham had provided.
Immigration is a key part of the debate over Britain’s European Union membership ahead of the June 23 referendum.