Two people have been arrested in Manchester on suspicion of smuggling migrants across the English Channel into the UK.
A 33-year-old Iranian National and a 23-year-old British man are being held by Britain’s FBI.
A statement from the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: ‘NCA officers have tonight arrested a 33-year-old Iranian national and a 24-year-old British man in Manchester, on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the English Channel into the UK.
‘As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.’
At least 139 migrants were caught crossing from France to Britain over Christmas, and 239 have reached the UK since November.
A Border Force patrol vessel leaves the Port of Dover. The UK is stepping up patrols after a recent surge in the number of migrants attempting to navigate the English Channel’s busy shipping lanes in small boats
Eight migrants brought ashore at Dover Harbour by the UK Border Force officials, they were transferred from the Border Force cutter in an incident on December 28
The arrests come as it was revealed Home Secretary Sajid Javid redeployed two Border Force cutters from overseas to patrol the English Channel and has now called in the military as he tries to get a grip of the crisis.
The deployment is yet another U-turn for the Home Secretary, who refused an offer of military assistance from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson at the weekend but last night changed his mind and wrote to him requesting support.
Mr Javid, touted by some as a possible future Tory leadership candidate, has faced days of criticism over what has been seen as a botched response to the crisis.
This image provided by the Marine Nationale (French Navy) shows migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities, off the port of Calais, northern France
The Home Secretary was ridiculed after he classified the crisis as a ‘major incident’ on Friday while remaining on a family safari holiday 6,000 miles away in South Africa.
When he returned to Whitehall on Monday, he ordered the return of two Border Force cutters from the Mediterranean but resisted the offer of military assistance from Mr Williamson, who is seen as a potential leadership rival.
HMS Mersey, a naval patrol vessel, will set off from Portsmouth this morning to be stationed off the Kent coast.
It will provide cover while the Border Force patrol boats return from the Mediterranean, which could take as long as a fortnight. Royal Navy sailors will also be sent to help man the civilian vessels when they eventually get back so they can operate around the clock.
How visa-free route through Serbia is why so many Iranians are crossing the Channel
The proliferation of Iranian migrants crossing the English Channel to Britain is partly thanks to a new migration route to Europe opened in August 2017 when Serbia started offering visa-free travel to people from Iran.
By the time the scheme was abolished in October following pressure from the European Union, more than 15,000 Iranians had visited Serbia.
Many of these migrants then moved towards western Europe instead of returning home – and many are said to have reached Calais before attempting to cross the English Channel to Britain.
Chris Hogben, head of the NCA-led Invigor organised immigration crime task force, previously said:
‘Tackling the criminals behind these extremely dangerous attempts to funnel illegal immigrants across channel via small boats is an operational priority for the NCA.
‘We are devoting significant resources to disrupting this activity, including officers deployed to support the work of our French colleagues, a team of officers developing intelligence on the groups involved, investigators working on UK based crime groups, as well as deploying our full range of specialist covert capabilities to disrupt the criminals involved and pursue their finances.
‘As a result of that co-operation dozens of attempted crossings have already been prevented and only last week three suspected facilitators were arrested and charged in France. They will face trial in the New Year.
‘Over the last three weeks our French colleagues have disrupted numerous attempts, recovering at least 95 migrants including nine children, and arrested seven people caught attempting to facilitate these crossings.
‘Working with our French partners we would anticipate further arrests over the coming weeks and also more attempts to reach the UK are likely.
‘Our response to these attempts is not limited to activity around Calais; the NCA-led organised immigration crime task force is working closely with law enforcement partners in the UK and France – as well as upstream in Europe and further afield – to gather intelligence and disrupt the organised crime groups involved.
‘The organised criminals behind these most recent attempts are in the main not UK-based, but through our close collaboration with French authorities we are still having an impact on them and their activity.
The Border Force vessel “Speedwell” is seen within the marina on January 02, 2019 in Dover, England. It’s following a number of small vessels carrying migrants crossing the Channel from France
‘We are pursuing operational leads in both the UK and with our French partners, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to bring people smugglers targeting the UK to justice, whether they are operating in the UK itself or France.
‘But criminal investigations of this nature are complex and take time. It would not be appropriate to give a running commentary on them.
‘Trying to cross the Channel in this way is highly dangerous.
‘We know that there have been organised criminals with a complete lack of regard for human life involved in organising many of them, however it is also clear that some of them have been opportunistic and made by migrants themselves without the assistance of organised criminality.
‘While these attempts are high profile and high risk, the biggest threat posed by organised criminals trying to smuggle people into the UK remains at south coast ports via HGVs rather than through the use of small maritime vessels.’
Revealed: 123 migrants have tried to enter Britain in 16 bids to cross the Channel in just seven days
There have been at least 16 attempts by migrants trying to get to Britain since Christmas Day in the Channel
1) Dec 25, unknown time – Dover – five migrants sail into Dover port and light a fire on the beach before handing themselves in to police
2) Dec 25, 2.40am – Folkestone – a girl is one of eight migrants found after arriving on a boat
3) Dec 25, 4.30am – off the coast of Deal, Kent – 13 migrants, including one child, rescued in the Channel
4) Dec 25, 5.50am – Channel – dinghy travelling towards the UK with seven men and a woman intercepted
5) Dec 25, unknown time – French side of Channel – nine migrants rescued by French officials after engine failed but transferred to English authorities
6) Dec 25, 9.20am – eight miles off coast of Dover – two migrants in a rowing boat are rescued
7) Dec 26, 12.30am – ten miles off France in Channel – three migrants intercepted and taken to Dover
8) Dec 26, 1.45am – off the coast of Sangatte, near Calais – 11 migrants intercepted and returned to Boulogne
9) Dec 27, 12,30am – off Battery Point, Folkestone – nine migrants including three children intercepted after dinghy came ashore
10) Dec 27, 8.30am – Shakespeare Beach, Dover – six Iranian men found after coming ashore
11) Dec 27, 8.45am – off the coast of Dover – eight Iranian men rescued from a rib and taken to Dover
12) Dec 27, 11.30pm – off the coast of Calais – 11 adult men, including five in a state of hypothermia, rescued and taken to Boulogne
13) Dec 28, 3am – off coast of Dover – one Syrian and three Iranian men found in rib
14) Dec 28, 9am – in the Channel – eight Iranian men rescued from a small boat and taken to Dover
15) Dec 30, 7.30am – Kingsdown beach near Dover – six Iranian men land in a dingy
16) Dec 31, 8am – Greatstone, near Lydd-on-Sea – 12 people arrive and are detained