The move, which will see officers from the National Crime Agency operate in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, will open a new front in Britain’s objective to “stop the boats,” following a deal with France to clamp down on people-smuggling gangs.
Italy has predicted that 400,000 migrants will try to enter Europe through its sea borders this year, with gangs overseeing vessel journeys from the North African coast across the Mediterranean.
That figure is a four-fold increase from last year, with 80,000 people already having made the journey in the first three months of 2023.
The UK Home Office has warned that the surge could lead to an increase in the number of migrants traveling northward and eventually making the trip to Britain across the English Channel, again via small vessels. In 2023 so far, 7,569 migrants have crossed from France to Britain.
The new deal with North African countries will involve intelligence- and expertise-sharing, as well as crackdowns on people-smuggling gangs.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick on Monday will start a five-day tour of North Africa and Europe to oversee the launch of the scheme.
He is set to visit Tunisia, Algeria and Libya to meet counterparts and discuss law-enforcement efforts to “disrupt, degrade and deny gangs at source.”
Jenrick told The Times: “We’re taking the fight to the people-smuggling gangs upstream to help prevent dangerous and unnecessary journeys long before migrants are within reach of the UK.
“Just as we’ve deepened diplomatic and security cooperation on illegal migration with France, Italy and Albania, we are working to enhance our cooperation with other key transit and source countries for migration to tackle this shared challenge. It is right that we use all the assets of the state to disrupt, degrade and deny gangs at source.”
The new scheme comes as the British government’s Illegal Migration Bill faces scrutiny in the House of Lords.
The series of proposed laws aims to expedite the detainment and deportation of migrants who arrive illegally in the UK.
After visiting Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, Jenrick will travel to Italy to meet Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has pledged to clamp down on illegal migration as part of her G7 agenda.
Jenrick will also meet French officials in Paris and tour the northern port city of Calais, the most popular departure point for migrant vessels traveling to Britain.