The U.K. should deploy Royal Navy vessels to boost maritime capacity in combating people smuggling, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.
The U.K. Border Force does not have the resources to effectively monitor smaller ports being used by criminal gangs to move people between mainland Europe and the U.K., the Home Affairs Committee said in a report on Wednesday. The force has just three dedicated vessels monitoring 7,700 miles (12,400 kilometers) of coastline, according to the report. That compares with almost 750 boats deployed across a similar length of coastline in Spain and Italy.
“Criminal gangs continue to exploit weaknesses in security at small ports in Britain to illegally transport migrants from the continent,” the committee’s chairman, Keith Vaz, said in a statement. “Despite maritime security being critical to an island nation, Border Force is operating worryingly low numbers of vessels to protect our borders. Royal Navy vessels must be used in our sea war against the traffickers.”
The report comes as terrorist attacks from Paris to Istanbul since early 2015 have led to heightened security concerns across Europe, while the refugee crisis intensifies. The committee said Europe’s reaction to refugees entering its borders has been "lamentable" and called for the security measures put in place by the U.K. since the Paris attacks in November to be replicated by its European neighbors and by countries bordering Europe.
"Clearly the challenges facing the U.K. Border Force remain significant and are growing," Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch U.K., said in an e-mailed statement. "It is imperative that more money is devoted to address the issue of illegal immigration, which is of major public concern."