UK and Turkey agree intelligence-sharing deal to 'smash' people smuggling gangs

9 August 2023, 06:01

The UK has agreed a deal to tackle people-smugglers in Turkey
The UK has agreed a deal to tackle people-smugglers in Turkey. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

The UK and Turkey have agreed to share intelligence on people smugglers to break up gangs and help slow the flow of illegal migration across the English Channel.

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Ministers said the deal between London and Ankara would focus on co-ordinated actions to "disrupt and dismantle people smuggling gangs".

The Turkish National Police, with support from the UK, will build an operational "centre of excellence" to tackle organised immigration crime.

Other areas of focus include exchanging customs data, information and intelligence between UK and Turkish authorities, and working together to disrupt the supply chain of materials used by the gangs.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: "As I've made clear, we must do everything we can to smash the people smuggling gangs and stop the boats.

Crossing the Channel can be very dangerous
Crossing the Channel can be very dangerous. Picture: Getty

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"Our partnership with Turkey, a close friend and ally, will enable our law enforcement agencies to work together on this international problem and tackle the small boat supply chain."

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said about the deal: "We will be intensively sharing intelligence, people and technology to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling gangs and the manufacture and supply of materials which enable small boat crossings.

"Having met our partners in Europe, North Africa and indeed Turkey recently, I've seen first-hand the benefits our increased co-operation has on stopping the boats.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman. Picture: Alamy

"I am determined that the UK is a leading force in tackling illegal migration and a partner to all those allies who share our determination to defeat it."

The new operational centre will aim to strengthen collaboration between the National Crime Agency and Home Office Intelligence staff based in Turkey and their Turkish counterparts. And the UK will deploy more officers in Turkey to enable collaboration on joint operations to disrupt the criminal gangs who are facilitating illegal journeys.

According to the Home Office, the export of small boats and boat parts across the continent of Europe in order to facilitate illegal crossings to the UK is a vital element of people smugglers' tactics.

It said it is estimated that hundreds of small boats and boat parts are transported through Europe each year for this purpose.

The deal between the UK and Turkey will be discussed at the upcoming UK-Turkey Migration Dialogue meeting, scheduled for the autumn in London.

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The deal comes after Mr Jenrick's visit to Turkey last month, where he visited the Turkish-Bulgarian Border Check Point at Kapikule - the largest and busiest border crossing point in Europe.

The announcement is also one of a series the Government will be making as part of its "stop the boats" week.

It comes as the first set of migrants boarded the Bibby Stockholm barge off the coast of Dorset this week.