Jan 21 2013
Criminal gangs are smuggling illegal immigrants out of Britain for up to £1,500 per person, an undercover investigation has revealed.
A secret travel network, which operates up to three times a week, ships foreign nationals abroad under the nose of immigration officials, the BBC Panorama probe found.
Some of those who use the service have lived illegally in the UK for years and want to move on in the hope of finding opportunities elsewhere in Europe, while others are criminals on the run from British authorities.
During the course of a year, Panorama made contact with three such criminal gangs, all offering to smuggle illegal immigrants out of the country with no questions asked.
In one case, reporter Paul Kenyon met with a fixer as he posed as an illegal immigrant from Moldova who wanted to return home to his sick wife. The fixer, a former Indian police officer called "Munga", explained that for a charge of £1,500 per person, the gang would smuggle groups of three or four illegal immigrants across the Channel in the back of a lorry to Calais train station.
It is thought as many as half a million migrants are hiding from the authorities in Britain, the equivalent to a city the size of Sheffield.
Mr Kenyon also met Zarif Nasiry, who has lived in a cave inside a Nottingham graveyard for three years. He told the programme that his father was killed for political reasons in Afghanistan and that he fled to the UK, afraid the same would happen to him.
The Government is battling to bring annual net non-EU immigration below 100,000. It currently stands at 183,000. Student visa abuse is one of the most popular methods of gaining access to the UK labour market, with one in six foreign students who came to the UK in 2009 working instead.
Recently, the Government has barred more than 500 colleges from taking non-EU foreign students in a fresh clampdown. And thousands of applicants for visas to study in the UK are to be subjected to interviews.
Immigration minister Mark Harper said: "It is possible we don't catch every single person who tries to enter the country clandestinely. When we do catch people, we're increasing the work we do with our European colleagues, we make sure people are fingerprinted, we can check to see if people have entered the European Union in another country. If they have, we can return them back to the country where they first entered."