Dismantle gangs who bring asylum seekers in boats: Expert

Neil Basu feels the model followed by Counter Terrorism Policing, of close partnership with intelligence agencies, government, and multiple partners, could help curb the menace

File photo of former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

A former counter-terrorism expert has called for decisive action to dismantle the gangs involved in human trafficking to bring down the influx of boat migrants to Britain.

Neil Basu, former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and head of counter terrorism, wrote in The Telegraph that though The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been working hard in collaboration with the French authorities, the number of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel remains high.

He felt that human traffickers should be treated like terrorists, and intelligence gathering and law enforcement agencies must try to prevent them at the source. Once these boats set sail, it is too late, he added.

Basu suggested the model followed by Counter Terrorism Policing, of close partnership with intelligence agencies, government, and multiple partners, all of whom have clear lines of responsibility and accountability will work in tackling this menace.

He said the human traffickers are motivated by money, they have no qualms in putting the lives of thousands of migrants at risk. If they are not prevented, many more lives will be lost in the future.

Basu is not very hopeful about the effectiveness of the Rishi Sunak government’s Rwanda scheme. He felt it will be an expensive project and may not deter the gangs from sending migrants by boats. It may at best help in the removal of a fraction of asylum seekers who are already in the UK.

He felt a more efficient way would be a stronger law enforcement approach – with stronger leadership, extra resources, and a more coherent structure to protect our borders.

Basu finds Labour’s new proposal for a New Border Security Command much more promising.

Labour leader Keir Starmer had last week pledged to “smash the gangs” who bring asylum seekers to Britain in boats. He said his party would create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.

Basu felt this marshalling of assets under the leadership of a new commander, and providing a direct accountability line to the home secretary would be effective.

He said it will be a challenge to coordinate with hundreds of additional UK investigators, prosecutors and officers deployed to work with their counterparts across Europe and beyond, but a strong leadership can achieve it.

Basu said Sir Keir’s plans will be most effective if the Border Security Commander he appoints is provided all the resources promised, control of a dedicated budget, and the freedom to think creatively about how to get the best talent to recruit hundreds more specialist investigators, enforcement officers, and specialist prosecutors.

He said all the agencies involved in securing our borders – the NCA, Border Force, intelligence agencies and the police – have the right systems in place to share information and that they are willing to do so.

Basu cautioned that the battle against human traffickers won’t be easy. Like most criminal gangs, they too change their tactics and look for weaknesses in the system to stay one step ahead of law enforcers. However, decisive leadership and a dedicated border force can help fight the menace, he added.