Smuggled: Channel 4 branded 'irresponsible' for airing immigration documentary days after lorry tragedy

Channel 4 has defended its new reality series in which participants attempt to smuggle themselves into the UK as being of "urgent public interest", following criticism from the Home Office.

The television station found itself facing a barrage of criticism after it broadcast the programme just weeks after 39 bodies were found in a lorry trailer in Essex.

"Smuggled" sees British passport holders attempt to get back into the United Kingdom without being caught by border officials.

The first episode saw all four sets of participants successfully evade detection using "well documented and publicised methods used by illegal entrants and refugees."

The series was initially pulled from the schedules after the lorry tragedy.

The Home Office branded the broadcaster "irresponsible" for releasing the programme so soon after the bodies were found.

Producers of the show believe they have shown major weaknesses with border checks, and there is a public interest in showing UK audiences these flaws.

How does the show work?

One of the participants used a friend's passport to get into the UK. Credit: PA

The show used British people in various scenarios attempting to cross into the UK.

One man successfully re-entered the country from the Netherlands by using a friend's passport.

Sitting in the back seat of a car, passport officials did not discover he was not the passport holder - despite having access to high quality imagery to help them identify those using documents fraudulently.

Another managed to enter the United Kingdom by hiding in the back of a camper van.

Whilst border authorities asked if their vehicle was locked during the ferry crossing, they did not inspect it for clandestine passengers.

Those taking part travelled with a show producer and reportedly had access to the correct travel documents, if asked to present them.

It comes as an ITV News investigation uncovered how illegal passports are being offered to migrants in the UK.

What has the response to the show been?

British passport holders were filmed taking on the UK's border and avoid authority detection. Credit: PA

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Broadcasting this programme so soon after the tragic incident at Grays is both insensitive and irresponsible."

They added: "Organised crime gangs have no respect for human life so it is reckless to provide a platform for the illegal activity that they facilitate.

"Doing so can encourage them to exploit our border for profit, risking the lives of vulnerable, desperate people as they do so."

Channel 4 has defended its decision to produce and broadcast the programme, which was filmed in the summer.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: "This documentary series investigates concerns that the UK Border Force is failing to adequately secure the UK from clandestine entrants."

One couple used a ferry to Portsmouth to reenter the UK in a camper van. Credit: PA

They continued: "Filmed this summer, the programmes question the security of UK borders and give the viewing public a much broader insight into an important issue facing this country - which is part of our remit as a public service broadcaster.

"More than ever, following this awful tragedy, the shocking findings of the films have become a matter of urgent public interest."

Responding to accusations they are giving a platform for the work of smuggling gangs, a Channel 4 statement continued: "All of the methods of entry into the UK tested in the programme are well documented and publicised methods used by illegal entrants and refugees.

"The only surprise in the programme is just how easy it is to enter the UK undetected. The shocking findings of these films are a matter of urgent public interest."