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New serious crime strategy needed to crack down on smuggling gangs – Labour

The Government needs to replace the current ‘outdated’ strategy, Yvette Cooper has said.

Dominic McGrath
Thursday 27 July 2023 22:30 BST
Yvette Cooper has called for a new serious and organised crime strategy (Victoria Jones/PA)
Yvette Cooper has called for a new serious and organised crime strategy (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The Government needs to replace the current “outdated” serious crime strategy to properly tackle smuggling gangs and people traffickers, Labour has said.

The party said convictions for criminal people smuggling have fallen by 36% since Labour were last in office in 2010 as shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused ministers of presiding over a “failed approach”.

Labour is calling for a new serious and organised crime strategy to replace the current 2018 plan, which the party said was five years out of date.

The Opposition said the current strategy does not mention “Channel crossings” and lacked a clear set of responsibilities for either the National Crime Agency or regional organised crime units to tackle the issue.

The 2018 document does include a section on “organised immigration crime”, warning it “involves the illegal facilitation by organised crime groups of migrants to access or remain illegally in the UK through a variety of methods and routes”.

Ministers’ obsession with announcing new headline-grabbing gimmicks, which then fail to deliver, has given gangs of criminals making millions of pounds a licence to operate

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary

Labour said a new plan is needed amid the rise in small boats crossings over recent years.

More than 14,500 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel, according to Home Office data.

The party said the successful conviction rate for all forms of illegal entry to England and Wales, and not just Channel crossings, fell by twelve percentage points between 2010 and 2022.

Ms Cooper said: “Criminal smuggling gangs have been allowed to take hold along our border, yet the Conservative government has repeatedly failed to take the action needed against them.

“Ministers’ obsession with announcing new headline-grabbing gimmicks, which then fail to deliver, has given gangs of criminals making millions of pounds a licence to operate.

“The Conservatives’ failed approach has given a free pass to smuggler and trafficking gangs who are undermining our border security and putting lives at risk with small boat crossings.”

She said Labour would “redirect money being spent on the Tories’ failing Rwanda scheme to relentlessly target these criminal smuggling gangs” while also backing a new cross-border police unit.

A Government source said: “Labour has no plan to stop the boats and even the NCA accept giving them more money won’t solve it. Labour’s so-called plan is laughable and the British public should see it for what it is – a total distraction.”

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