The National Crime Agency has witnessed a staggering drop in the number of officers helping to apprehend people-smugglers, new Home Office figures have shown.
There was a total decrease of 343 NCA officers between March and September 2023.
NCA officers work to cut serious and organised crime, including by tackling people traffickers by securing the UK’s borders.
The agency also deals with money laundering, illicit finance, modern slavery, child sex abuse and corruption.
Rishi Sunak is coming under fire following a fall in NCA officers
However, there have been numerous examples of NCA officers apprehending criminals involved in the ongoing migrant crisis.
Four people were charged by NCA officers in October following an investigation into an alleged crime group smuggling migrants to the UK via small boats.
Hewa Rahimpur, 30, originally from Iran was also sentenced to 11 years behind bars last year after being found to have sourced boats to transport illegal migrants across the Channel.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper heaped pressure on Rishi Sunak’s Government after the data was released yesterday.
She said: “On a day of more Tory infighting, these are bombshell statistics that show the Conservatives cannot be trusted to keep our streets or our borders safe.
NCA officers deal with a number of illegal situations, including people trafficking
“Not content with cutting bobbies on the beat from our local communities, they are now cutting NCA officers too – the law enforcement body responsible for smashing the smuggling gangs operating in the Channel.
“Labour will restore order to the border, establish a new police unit to smash the smuggling gangs and put neighbourhood police back on our streets, to keep our local communities safe.”
Cooper’s comments came after ex-Cabinet Minister Simon Clarke urged Sunak to quit as Prime Minister just months before the next general election.
Migration Watch chair Alp Mehmet also voiced concern about the falling number of NCA officers given their attempts to curb Channel crossing migrants and deal with people smuggling gangs.
He told GB News: “The NCA has in the past shown it understands illegal immigration and how it should be tackled.
Yvette Cooper has criticised Sunak’s Government over the latest Home Office data
“If fewer officers means a reduced effort on dealing with immigration crime, that is very bad news.”
Data released by the Home Office also revealed the headcount of police officers in England and Wales stood at 149,161 at the end of September 2023, down by 402 compared to the end of March.
Despite hovering above the total recorded in September 2022, the headcount is no longer at the highest level since current records began in 2003.
Falling numbers coincide with an increase in specific offences, including shoplifting.
The headcount is still above the number of full-time equivalent officers recorded in 2010 and well above the trough experienced during the heyday of austerity.
However, concerns about the NCA’s ability to combat people smugglers aiding Channel crossing migrants come after the Prime Minister passed his flagship Rwanda scheme.
Sunak’s attempt to stop the boats has not been an overwhelming success so far, with a number of legal challenges blocking flights taking off.
A total of 29,437 people made the perilous 21-mile journey in 2023, down from 45,774 in the previous year.
The National Crime Agency was founded in 2013
Labour’s plan instead involves plans to create a cross-border police unit, sign new accords with European countries, and fast-track decisions and returns in an attempt to clear the backlog and end hotel use.
However, leading Conservative MPs have claimed Labour’s plan would force the UK to take in 100,000 extra illegal migrants every year.
Responding to criticisms about the recent drop in NCA officers, a Home Office spokesperson told GB News: “We are absolutely committed to keeping our borders and streets safe.
“The Government has delivered its commitment to recruit 20,000 additional police officers and this is being maintained, with over 3,000 more officers protecting communities than in 2010 – the previous peak before our unprecedented recruitment drive.
“Last year channel crossings were down by more than a third and in 2023 there was a significant increase in staff to our Small Boats Operational Command (SBOC) as part of our long-term recruitment plan to ensure the safety of our borders and communities.”