The UK authorities have updated the guidance in relation to the illegal entry of migrants via small boats, vessels and lorries. Those involved at any stage of the process could face prosecution, even if they did not act for financial gain.

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Illegal entry of migrants into the UK

When a migrant is found trying to enter the UK illegally, then what happens? Who faces prosecution? And what are the charges? Guidance has now been updated to provide clarification to these questions, ensuring consistency across the judicial system.

Charges for those bringing migrants to the UK

Criminal charges may be considered for those bringing migrants to the UK under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971. This states that someone may be charged for transporting or concealing a foreign national into the UK, despite knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that it constitutes a breach of immigration law.

The guidance says that the prosecution should focus on those with more significant roles in facilitating the entry. Even so, those who did not play a part in arranging a sea journey, but who played a lesser role, could face charges. This might include someone who did not act for financial gain but helped to purchase, inflate or steer the boat.

Charges are more likely where other people’s lives were put at risk. Where criminal charges are not possible, an individual may face civil penalties instead. This would be imposed by Border Force and the Clandestine Entrants Civil Penalty Team.

Charges against passengers

The guidance says that passengers should not be prosecuted unless they are repeat offenders or have been deported from the UK previously. Rather than facing prosecution, they should be removed from the UK by the proper immigration channels.

The guidance is based on the reality that migrants and asylum seekers often do not have a choice in the manner of travel, and are regularly exploited by organised groups. With this in mind, prosecutors are told to remember the public interest factors when charging those entering the UK illegally.

Also, if passengers are intercepted or rescued at sea, it is unlikely any offence of illegal entry has been committed.

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