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People smugglers hide migrants in trucks of Christmas presents


People smugglers are bringing Albanian migrants into the country alongside Christmas presents, it has been revealed. 

Gang leaders are using TikTok to publicise their £18,000 deals in which they get migrants to take the place of a registered 'second driver' in trucks carrying festive goods into Britain.

It is considered a safer option than the more conventional smuggling route, which involves the migrants hiding in the back of vehicles.

The tactic also represents an alternative to the hugely dangerous small boat crossings, which have seen 40,000 people - including some 12,000 from Albania - land on British shores this year.

The harsher winter weather means crossing the Channel is even more perilous, hence smugglers eyeing up other ways to transport people into the UK. 

One social media advert features a cartoon image of Tower Bridge, a red double-decker bus and Union Jack.

It promises: 'Every day we offer a journey as a second driver. Our last journey was successful. 18K£ for a lorry to the UK. Anyone who is now in Belgium or France should get in touch.'

Another with an image of lorries on a motorway overlaid with Union Jacks and Albanian national flags said: 'Hey Albanian after three days we have journeyed with lorry as a second lorry driver. £18,000. Secure passage.'

Others feature a traditional black cab, with the message: 'Super safe road with taxi and truck departures every week.'

Smuggling people into the back of lorries was once the preferred tactic of gangs, until join controls were tightened by both the UK and France, leading to the surge in small boat crossing instead.

The 'spare driver' tactic is designed to circumvent those restrictions so people being smuggled into Britain are not picked up by Border Force or immigration enforcement officers.

Despite this trend, the Home Office is braced for an increase in Channel crossings by boat in the coming days to coincide with a spell of calmer weather. 

Slick videos promoting £3,000 tickets for journeys across the Channel are regularly posted by smugglers on platforms including TikTok, and they now appear to be exploiting the better conditions as an excuse for a marketing spree. 

One, which showed a background picture of Albanians on a small boat in the Channel, said: 'Journey to England on a boat. Start of the journey from Calais. Arrival Dover. Super secure. Secure 100,000%. Start of the journey 11th of this month.'

Albanians have accounted for 12,000 of the record 40,000 migrants who have arrived in the UK this year. 

A sudden surge in crossings would put the UK's already creaking asylum processing system under further strain, including the 'catastrophically overcrowded' facility at Manston in Kent. 

It comes as it emerged that migrants could soon be housed in disused cruise ships and university halls as the cost of putting them up in hotels continues to spiral.

The Home Office's hotel bill is a staggering £6.8million per day - or more than £2billion per year - with 50,000 asylum seekers and Afghan refugees being placed in private accommodation.

The average spend per migrant is £105 per night, but some have been housed in luxury hotels for more than £150 per night.