People-smuggling crackdown 'success'

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Media captionIn the BBC investigation, Sultan, an agent for the people-smugglers in Paris, was seen guaranteeing "safe passage to the UK"

Numbers of people-smuggling operations disrupted rose by nearly a third in a year, UK Government figures have shown.

The increase was revealed at a meeting called between government ministers and two Kent MPs following an investigation by BBC South East.

It was discovered smugglers in Paris were putting people on lorries carrying produce for supermarket chain Lidl.

After the investigation in December, Lidl said it had asked its hauliers to conduct urgent investigations.

The investigation revealed how Paris had become a hub for illegal migration to the UK.

UK border

The BBC exposed a gang offering guaranteed passage to England.

The two MPs - Craig Mackinlay for Thanet South and Charlie Elphicke for Dover - went on to ask for a private meeting with government ministers.

Both MPs have repeatedly raised concerns about illegal migration because the UK border in Kent affects their constituencies.

Mr Mackinlay said: "What the BBC did was absolutely fantastic and that was the sort of evidence that I think Border Force need because they can't be everywhere at all times."

Image caption The Home Office said the government was working closely with its French counterparts

The figures showed that in 2015, 140 smuggling operations were "disrupted".

But last year, that figure went up to 185.

'Increased incursions'

It is understood the Home Office expects the figure for this year to be higher still.

But the PCS union said efforts were not succeeding.

Union spokesman Kevin Mills said: "We would argue they're not succeeding in combating illegal migration.

"We're having some success but the sad reality is we're seeing increased attempts and incursions across the borders."

The MPs said ministers at the meeting told them the Home Office was working closely with its French counterparts, a case was open on the "Paris gang" and an investigation was ongoing.

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