Christians and other religious minorities are among the migrants making the dangerous journey across the Channel in an attempt to reach Britain's shores, according to a report.
According to The Times, over 1,200 people have attempted the crossing this year, many of them in dangerously overcrowded boats and some reportedly being forced into the vessels at gunpoint.
An unnamed community worker told the newspaper that minorities were paying thousands of pounds for a place on the boats out of a belief that they could receive protection from Britain.
"The people on the boats are often Christians or other minorities who believe they will get protection in Britain," the community worker said.
"They can pay up to £15,000 each to make the journey. They have told me of having guns and knives pointed at them to make them get on to dangerous, overcrowded boats."
Earlier this month, 47 people were intercepted by the UK Border Force. According to the Independent, they all gave their nationalities as Iranian or Iraqi - both countries where Christians have suffered brutal persecution.
An Iranian woman who attempted to cross the Channel in a boat with 19 others last Friday is missing presumed drowned after the vessel got into difficulty in bad weather off the Kent coast.
The crossing routes have reportedly been targeted by organised crime groups charging huge sums for passage across the Channel.
A law enforcement officer told The Times that they were using force in some cases.
"We have heard stories of coercion and gun threats and there is no doubt that people-smuggling gangs are involved. But we also have to be wary that some people may have been coached about what to say when they arrive in the UK," the officer said.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Crossing the Channel in a small boat is a huge risk. The criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life."
Kaveh Kalantri, of the Iranian Association, a UK-based group helping refugees, told the BBC that Iranians were leaving their country because of a lack of freedom and human rights.
"People get arrested if they have liberal or left-wing views, or if they are from religious minorities. A lot of people experience violence on a daily basis," said Kalantri.