Four in ten migrants crossing the Channel in small boats are from peaceful Albania where there has not been a war for 25 years, a secret military intelligence report leaked to The Mail on Sunday reveals.
The explosive document – marked ‘Official Sensitive’ – shows that almost three times as many migrants arriving on the UK’s shores from France come from the Balkans country compared with anywhere else. It is the first time that an official report has exposed how the largest proportion of those making illegal crossings appear to be economic migrants abusing Britain’s generous asylum system.
The report, exclusively revealed today by The Mail on Sunday, follows a surveillance operation by the Royal Navy and defence intelligence experts of nine criminal gangs believed to be masterminding the majority of crossings. It reveals:
Made it: Channel migrants in Dover yesterday morning
- A total of 1,075 Albanians crossed the Channel in small boats organised by the gangs during a six-week period this summer – almost 40 per cent of those identified as making the perilous crossing
- The gangs are buying huge inflatable boats online from Chinese factories and transporting them to northern France;
- Two of the gangs – codenamed Dragon and Lotus – are customising the boats by asking Chinese firms to make them bigger so more migrants can be squeezed on board;
- The military’s intelligence-gathering operation ‘is currently limited by a lack of resource’ – despite Boris Johnson making a crackdown on the smuggling gangs a priority;
- The French authorities failed to reveal when they are successfully stopping crossing attempts, hampering efforts to get a complete picture of what the gangs are doing.
Migrants arrive in a Border Force Volunteer rescue boat, which has escorted 90 migrants picked up in the English Channel by Border Force (pictured)
The leaked report reveals that of the 2,863 migrants transported by the nine gangs between June 1 and July 12 this year, 1,075 – or 37.5 per cent – were Albanian.
Indeed, the total from Albania dwarfed other nationalities. Iranians made up the next highest total, with 373 migrants, or 13 per cent. There were 363 migrants from Afghanistan (12.7 per cent), 217 from Iraq (7.6 per cent), 162 from Syria (5.7 per cent) and 163 from Eritrea (5.7 per cent).
The figures vindicate Home Secretary Priti Patel’s view that the majority of those crossing the Channel are ‘effectively economic migrants’ and ‘not genuine asylum seekers’.
Although Albania has a high poverty rate, it is a peaceful country whose leaders are negotiating to join the EU.
Migrants after disembarking a Border Force vessel which escorted 70 migrants after they were picked up in the English Channel (pictured)
The document also undermines criticism from Left-wing critics, including the 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 scheme raised ‘serious ethical questions’ and cannot stand the ‘judgment of God’.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith last night said the report proved that people are arriving ‘on an economic migration ticket’ and abusing the asylum system. He added: ‘This is proof positive that the threat we face is not an asylum issue, it’s an economic migration issue, which is leading these traffickers to abuse the asylum system. This simply cannot be tolerated.
‘This is absolutely clear evidence – in the face of all those on the liberal Left who cry for us to let anyone in – that this is an economic issue and, as such, it is desperate that we get on with the Rwanda programme.’
Experts believe the crossings are being fuelled by social media, with brazen people-smugglers, who are charging up to £5,500 per person, posting videos on TikTok to advertise their services.
In one extraordinary video, posted on July 14, a group of Albanian men are seen unfurling their country’s red and black flag, which features a double-headed eagle, while they are crammed on a small boat crossing the Channel.
Some 28,526 people crossed the Channel in small boats in 2021 but this total is on course to almost double this year.
Last Monday 696 migrants arrived – a record daily figure for this year. Another 250 are believed to have crossed the Channel yesterday in eight inflatable boats.
Last Monday 696 migrants arrived – a record daily figure for this year. Pictured: Migrants arrive at Dover
Amid growing exasperation at the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of tackling the issue earlier this year.
The leaked document reveals that analysts at Operation Isotrope – the military’s response to the crossings – believe they have identified nine separate organised crime groups working 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 have examined their boats for further clues.
The military has also analysed the nationality of those being carried by each boat.
The number of Albanians crossing the Channel appears to have jumped dramatically this summer. A total of 757 Albanians crossed the Channel last year, according to Government figures.
Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK, who obtained the leaked report, said: ‘An army of well-intentioned but misguided Left-wing politicians, lawyers and do-gooders have been spinning the line that the vast majority of people who make these dangerous journeys are desperately fleeing war, persecution and terror.
‘If these people are not genuinely fleeing for their lives, then it is not up to the British taxpayer to support them.’
A migrant after disembarking a Border Force vessel which escorted 70 migrants after they were picked up in the English Channel
The people-smuggling gang codenamed Hydra transported 302 Albanians across the Channel during the six-week period, equivalent to 62 per cent of all its passengers.
The gang uses shorter boats than its competitors and made 12 trips, with 40 migrants on each boat on average.
The Dragon gang was the most prolific, making 18 separate trips and smuggling 887 migrants, including 278 Albanians. The epicentre of its operation is the Petit Fort Philippe beach in the town of Gravelines between Calais and Dunkirk.
The gang’s network is believed to have been severely disrupted by a major police operation that led to 39 arrests in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Astonishingly, Dragon, along with Lotus, have bought especially customised boats from Chinese manufacturers.
The boats are believed to have been lengthened and stripped of ‘unnecessary features in order to lower the cost and speed up [the] manufacturing time’, the report states.
The MoS understands that an Albanian police liaison officer is set to be permanently based in Dover to help deal with the growing problem.
Amid growing exasperation at the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of tackling the issue earlier this year. Pictured: Migrants arrive in a Border Force Volunteer rescue boat
However, a Home Office source said there is a shortage of Albanian translators to help process the increased number of migrants.
Alarmingly, the report reveals that intelligence gathering is being hampered because ‘limited to no data on boats stopped or disrupted by the French is available’. This, the report explains, prevents the UK from gaining an accurate picture of the ‘operating cycle’ of the trafficking gangs.
It adds that its fight against the gangs ‘is currently limited by a lack of resource, co-ordination between stakeholders, and inconsistent data capture’.
A Government spokesman said: ‘The rise in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable. People should always claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, rather than risk their lives and line the pockets of ruthless criminal gangs in order to cross the Channel.
‘Under our new Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, we are continuing preparations to relocate those who are making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys into the UK ultimately helping to save lives by deterring others.’