Migrants crossing the channel to claim asylum will no longer be prosecuted

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a lifeboat Credit: PA Images

Migrants who cross the channel to claim asylum in the UK will no longer be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

The agreement struck between police, prosecutors, the National Crime Agency, Border Force and the Home Office over cases involving "illegal entry" will also apply to those arriving by lorry.

The CPS said the guidance confirms that "individuals who have played a significant role in people-smuggling, including those who organise and pilot dangerous boat crossings across the English Channel, can expect to face prosecution where this is supported by the evidence.

A man carries a young child as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent Credit: PA Images

The updated guidance advises that passengers of boats and other vehicles should not be prosecuted unless they are repeat offenders or have previously been deported - and should instead be with dealt with by administrative removal channels.

Frank Ferguson, who leads CPS work on immigration crime, said the approach "strikes a proportionate balance between deterring criminal gangs from attempting dangerous crossings and acting in the interests of justice and compassion",

"It is right that those who exploit and profit from the desperation of others, or put lives at risk through controlling or driving overcrowded small boats or confined lorries, are considered for prosecution."

Regarding passengers, the guidance says: "It is unlikely that those who are simply occupants would be prosecuted", adding that the "focus for prosecutions should be on those with more significant roles, i.e. those that facilitate the entry".

If passengers are "intercepted or rescued at sea it is unlikely that any offence of illegal entry has been committed in law".<

It adds: "In cases involving the use of a boat where the sole intention is to be intercepted by BF (Border Force) at sea and brought into port for asylum claims to be made, no breach of immigration law will take place.

"The same applies where the intention is to sail the boat to a designated port of entry in order to claim asylum."