After 27 people died while attempting to enter the UK via the English Channel, politicians have raised concerns about people trafficking gangs.

While some charities and MPs blamed the government’s immigration rules for the deaths, saying they force people to turn to desperate measures when migrating, prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel said the deaths show the damage gangs do, and renewed their vows to stamp them out.

This is how people smuggling gangs exploit those wishing to migrate and what the UK and international organisations do to stop them:

What do people smuggling gangs do?

Organised networks and people smuggling gangs charge people for spots in dinghys headed for Britain, for reported fees of anywhere between 3,500 to 6,000 euros.

The UK and other countries try to disrupt the supply of dinghies by stopping them being sold in various towns, but gangs are thought to buy vessels from as far away as Germany and the Netherlands to transport people across the Channel.

According to the Guardian, informal asylum seeker networks share the WhatsApp numbers of the UK-based smuggler to raise funds for the trips and then payment is negotiated and facilitated by relatives of those making the crossing and agents for the smugglers.

Earlier this month, an organised crime group was stopped and 18 people were arrested. It was found to be involved in the supply of boats which would each be able to carry between 40 and 60 people, the NCA said.

The network would then arrange departures from the shore of northern France, recruiting migrants in the various camps there.

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What are law enforcers doing to deal with the problem?

A protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, which supplements the UN convention against transnational organised crime, came into force in January 2004, and 141 countries are party to it.

In July this year, Patel announced a new immigration bill and said it would “break the business model” of people trafficking gangs.

It pledged to give Border Force officers the powers to turn back migrant boats attempting to cross the channel from France, and use “reasonable force, if necessary”.

A maximum of life imprisonment for convicted people smugglers will be introduced with the legislation.

Yesterday, Johnson and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone and renewed their commitment to deal with the issue.

Johnson suggested joint police patrols along the coast but Macron has rejected the calls in the past, citing concerns about national sovereignty.

The government has also accused the French of not stepping up patrols enough, despite giving them millions in extra funding to deal with the problem.

National Crime Agency (NCA) deputy director Andrea Wilson said: “We look to target and disrupt organised crime groups involved in people smuggling at every step of the route.

“Much of this criminality lies outside the UK, so we have built up our intelligence-sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France and beyond.”

Patel and the Government have repeatedly pledged to make the Channel route “unviable”, but the NCA previously said it views organised immigration crime as a “continuous threat”.

Wilson said much of the NCA’s work has to be done covertly, but added: “We know it is having an impact.

“We are continuing to look at ways to disrupt the supply of vessels to people-smuggling OCGs, and target those who knowingly do so.”

A joint UK-France intelligence cell that started in July 2020 has been involved in almost 300 arrests relating to small boat crossings, the Home Office said earlier this month.

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