Migrants making the perilous journey over the seas into the UK are changing course to avoid capture, it has emerged.
Unscrupulous smugglers are sending people in small boats on 200-mile journeys to land in more sparsely populated areas further up the coast.
Metro.co.uk can reveal there have been at least two incidents of men landing in Lincolnshire in the last two months in a noticeable change of tactic.
It is thought they are exploiting the fact that Border Force patrols are so heavily focused on patrolling the English Channel around Kent that they can slip in unnoticed.
On November 16, five males claiming to be under-18 were found at Killingholme port, on the south bank of the Humber Estuary.
The Home Office said they presented themselves as Sudanese and Libyan nationals and they are now in the care of social services.
Just weeks later, on December 4, four Iranian men, aged 29 to 31, were arrested after landing near the resort of Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire.
These are the most northerly landings recorded and involve journeys ten times that usually covered between Calais and Kent.
It is believed they have set sail from Belgium, following the busy and dangerous shipping route used between Zeebrugge or Rotterdam to Hull.
Over Christmas, the Government declared a ‘major incident’ after it emerged 438 people had attempted to sneak into the UK in small boats since November.
They were intercepted in the English Channel, off the coast of Kent, after setting sail from northern France.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced patrols would be stepped up in the area and demanded two Border Force cutters be brought back from the Mediterranean to deal with the problem.
He hinted to the Commons there was also an issue further north and said boats may need to be dispatched further up the coast.
‘There was a landing on the coast of Lincolnshire in, I believe. December,’ he told MPs.
‘That is being looked into more closely but we should look more widely than just the South East coast.’
In fact, there were two landings before Mr Javid cut his holiday short over Christmas, when he declared the spate of beach landings by migrants a ‘major incident.’
Border Force is responsible for patrolling a 7,000-mile long coastline.
It has five cutters alongside a number of smaller patrol vessels but two of the bigger boats are in the Mediterranean by Italy and Greece dealing with the migrant crisis there.
On December 31, Mr Javid announced the two cutters would return from patrolling the Med however the Home Office said they need routine maintenance before they can start work in the UK.
A Royal Navy ship, HMS Mersey, has spent the last week on deployment in the English Channel.
Smuggling gangs exploiting migrants’ desperation to come to the UK can charge thousands of pounds for a place on a boat.
The French and British have a new joint intelligence centre in Calais to intercept migrants making their way across the perilous waters.
Despite that, there were 543 known people who tried to cross the English Channel in 2018. Of those, 80%, or 438 people, attempted the journey in the last two months of the year.
The British authorities intercepted 316 while the French found 227.
Those figures don’t include people who successfully made the journey.
Since April, Immigration Enforcement say they have disrupted 46 separate organised crime gangs involved in people smuggling.
Mr Javid sparked controversy last week when he questioned whether migrants using small boats to cross the Channel were genuine asylum seekers.
On Friday, a report found only one-in-three failed asylum seekers was actually removed from Britain.
David Wood, head of immigration enforcement at the Home Office until 2015, said the current system is open to abuse.
He said there were between 10,000 and 15,000 applications each year from people who ultimately had no claim.
Mr Wood found that a common method of deception was ‘nationality swapping’ while others pretended to be under 18 when they were older.
He added that ‘of the 80,813 applications refused or withdrawn between 2010 and 2016, only 29,659 were removed – leaving 51,154 failed asylum seekers in the country from that seven-year period alone.’
Mr Wood has previously condemned the Home Office for failing to get a grip on the number of people coming into the UK by boat.
He said they should be returned to France, so people smugglers don’t see the Border Force or UK coastguard as a ‘taxi service.’
He said currently people smugglers did not fear the UK authorities.
‘They know they don’t have to get right across the Channel and land, they can get half way across and the migrants will be taken the rest of the way.
He added: ‘Britain’s border force, coastguards and lifeboats are being used as a taxi service for the migrants.
‘There will be a hue and cry when a boat full of 12 migrants sinks and they die.’
The Home Office said they were committed to targeting the organised crime networks behind illegal immigration.
A spokesman said: ‘The Government’s focus remains to protect the UK border and we continue to work proactively with European law enforcement, including partners in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, to target the organised crime networks behind people trafficking and illegal migration.’