Briton and Iranian arrested in Manchester over English Channel 'migrant smuggling'

Comes after government redeploys patrol vessels from the Mediterranean

Henry Austin,Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 02 January 2019 23:28 GMT
Border Force officials carry an intercepted migrant dinghy off the Kent coast
Border Force officials carry an intercepted migrant dinghy off the Kent coast (Reuters)

A British man and an Iranian national have been arrested in Manchester on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the English Channel into the UK, the National Crime Agency said.

A spokesperson said that they were unable to comment as the investigation was ongoing. They said the Briton was 24 and the Iranian 33-years-old.

In total, 239 people have reached the UK by boat since November and the government has redeployed patrol vessels from the Mediterranean as concerns have risen over a rising number of crossings.

Earlier this year, the NCA’s deputy director Tom Dowdall told The Independent that Iranians were paying smugglers up to £30,000 to reach the UK.

Mr Dowdall, the agency’s lead on human trafficking, said smugglers were “constantly changing” their modus operandi to avoid European law enforcement.

The arrests came after home secretary Sajid Javid was condemned for suggesting that officials will hamper asylum claims made by migrants crossing the Channel.

After declaring the increase in dinghy crossings from France a “major incident”, Mr Javid claimed that those attempting the journey may not be “genuine asylum seekers”.

“People shouldn’t be taking this very dangerous journey and if they do we need to send a very strong message that you won’t succeed,” he said during a visit to Dover. “You’re coming from France, which is a safe country, you’re coming to the UK in almost every case you’re claiming asylum in the UK, but if you were a real genuine asylum seeker then you could have done that in another safe country.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott led the criticism of his comments.

“It is not for Sajid Javid to claim that asylum seekers may not be genuine," she said. "He cannot know. We have a system for determining that.”

Fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy called his remarks “utterly disgusting” and accused the home secretary of normalising anti-refugee rhetoric.

“The asylum system in France is completely deadlocked and I fear deliberately so – they should be challenged on that,” she wrote on Twitter.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “The home secretary’s comments about refugees crossing the Channel show that the Tories’ nasty, hostile environment is alive and well."

Paul Hook, head of campaigns at the charity Refugee Action, said: “The home secretary must remember that these are people who have fled their homes, and they each deserve a decent, humanitarian and understanding response. This situation demands our compassion and cool, calm heads, and we hope the home secretary will reflect this in his statements.”

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Dr Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said Mr Javid’s comments were “deeply concerning”.

She added: “The outcome of an asylum application cannot be prejudged before it has been made and must be processed on its individual merit, irrespective of how that person reached the country. Let us not forget that we are talking about people who are in desperate need of protection, having fled countries with prolific human rights abuses."

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