Four out of ten migrants crossing the Channel in small boats come from peaceful Albania, which has not seen war for 25 years, a secret military intelligence report leaked to The Mail on Sunday reveals.
The explosive document – labeled ‘Official Sensitive’ – shows that almost three times as many migrants arriving on UK shores from France come from the Balkan country compared to anywhere else. It is the first time an official report has revealed how the largest number of those crossing illegally appear to be economic migrants abusing the UK’s generous asylum system.
The report, revealed exclusively today by The Mail on Sunday, follows a surveillance operation by the Royal Navy and intelligence experts of nine criminal gangs believed to be masterminding many of the crossings. It reveals:
I made it: Immigration station in Dover yesterday morning
- A total of 1,075 Albanians crossed the Channel in small boats organized by gangs in a six-week period this summer – almost 40 percent of those identified as dangerous crossings.
- The gangs buy giant inflatable boats online from factories in China and ship them to northern France;
- Two gangs – codenamed Dragon and Lotus – are customizing boats by asking Chinese companies 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 resources’ – despite Boris Johnson making the crackdown on gangs a priority;
- French authorities failed to reveal when they succeed in stopping crossing attempts, complicating efforts to get a full picture of what the gangs are doing.
Migrants arriving in a Border Force Volunteer rescue boat, which has escorted 90 migrants picked up in the English Channel by the Border Force (pictured)
The leaked report shows that of the 2,863 migrants trafficked by nine gangs between June 1 and July 12 this year, 1,075 – or 37.5 percent – were Albanians.
In fact, the total from Albania dwarfed other nations. Iranians followed the largest number of immigrants with 373 equal to 13 percent. There were 363 immigrants 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 Minister Priti Patel’s view that most of those crossing the Channel are ‘economic migrants’ and ‘not genuine asylum seekers’.
Although Albania has a high level of poverty, it is a peaceful country whose leaders are negotiating to join the EU.
Migrants after getting off the Border Force ship that escorted 70 migrants after being picked up in the English Channel (pictured)
The document also undermines criticism from critics of the Left, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, about plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In a political intervention earlier this year, Mr Welby claimed that Rwanda’s plan raised ‘serious moral questions’ and could not withstand the ‘judgement of God’.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith last night said the report proved people were arriving ‘on an economic migration ticket’ and abusing the asylum system. He added: “This is proof positive that the threat we face is not a refugee issue, it’s an economic migration issue, which is causing these traders to abuse the asylum system. This simply cannot be tolerated.
“This is very clear evidence – in front of all those on the liberal left who are crying for us to let anyone in – that this is an economic issue and, therefore, it is desperate that we continue with the Rwanda program.”
Experts believe the disputes are fueled by social media, with unscrupulous traffickers, who charge up to £5,500 per person, posting videos on TikTok to advertise their services.
In one unusual video, published on July 14, a group of Albanian men can be seen unfurling their country’s red and black flag, which features a double-headed eagle, while crowded onto a small boat crossing the Canal.
Some 28,526 people crossed the Channel by small boat in 2021 but this total is on track to almost double this year.
Last Monday 696 migrants arrived – a record daily number 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 number for this year. Pictured: Migrants arrive in Dover
Amid growing excitement over the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of dealing with the issue earlier this year.
A leaked document reveals that analysts in Operation Isotrope – the army’s response to the ferries – believe they have discovered nine different organized crime groups operating off the French coast. Each has been given its own code name by psychics: 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 scrutinized their boats for further clues.
The army has also analyzed the nationality of those carried by each boat.
The number of Albanians crossing the Channel seems to have increased significantly this summer. A total of 757 Albanians crossed the Channel last year, according to Government figures.
Richard Tice, 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 walking the line that the vast majority of people are doing this. Dangerous journeys are a great escape from war, torture 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 from a Border Force ship that escorted 70 migrants after being picked up in the English Channel.
The people-smuggling gang known as Hydra smuggled 302 Albanians across the Channel in six weeks, equivalent to 62 percent of all its passengers.
The gang uses smaller boats than its competitors and made 12 trips, with 40 migrants per boat on average.
The Dragon gang was the largest, making 18 separate trips and transporting 887 migrants, including 278 Albanians. The center of its operations is the beach of Petit Fort Philippe 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 the arrest of 39 people in France, Germany, the Netherlands and England.
Surprisingly, Dragon, along with Lotus, have bought special boats from Chinese manufacturers.
The boats are believed to be lengthened and stripped of unnecessary features to reduce costs and increase speed. [the] during manufacturing’, the report says.
The Foreign Office understands that an Albanian police liaison officer is to be based permanently in Dover to help deal with the growing problem.
Amid growing excitement over the scale of the crisis, Downing Street put the military in charge of dealing with the issue earlier this year. Pictured: Migrants arriving in a Border Volunteers rescue boat
However, an Interior Ministry source said there is a shortage of Albanian translators to help deal with the growing number of migrants.
Interestingly, the report reveals that intelligence gathering is hampered because ‘unlimited data on boats stopped or intercepted by the French is available’. This, the report explains, is preventing the UK from getting an accurate picture of the ‘operational cycle’ of human trafficking gangs.
It adds that its fight against 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 claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, rather than risking their lives and lining up in the pockets of violent criminal gangs to cross the Channel.
“Under 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 ultimately helping to save lives by stopping others.”