People-traffickers view Britain as a “soft touch” for smuggling illegal immigrants, with big profits and a low risk of being caught, according to Home Office research published yesterday. Traffickers also allege that officials in the Identity and Passport Service are willing to take bribes to help illegal immigrants to enter the country.

The research said that a number of factors encouraged illegal immigration, including the benefits system, a healthy illegal economy, the universality of the English language and the advocacy of illegal migration by some minority ethnic communities.

Other factors included the ready availability of work in the construction industry, high demand for prostitution, a comparatively relaxed immigration policy, the way that migrants and asylum seekers can use the Human Rights Act to remain in Britain, the ease of getting a passport via marriage to a British citizen and the absence of identity cards.

“The picture presented by the perpetrators was of a market that conferred healthy profits with a low risk of detection,” the report said. “The UK is perceived as an attractive destination for a number of reasons and illicit entry across UK borders is perceived to be relatively easy.”

Victims of trafficking are often women brought to work as sex slaves. Many pay thousands of pounds to get into Britain with the promise of work, only to find themselves trapped and their passports taken away.

The research on organised immigration crime involved interviews with 45 prisoners convicted of people smuggling or trafficking crimes in 2005. Migrants paid from £500 to £5,000 to be smuggled from France, £10,000 to gain entry from India, up to £12,000 from Turkey and £25,000 to £50,000 from China.

The Chinese figures included £10,000 for a false passport and £15,000 for the journey. An intermediary could be paid £4,000 for arranging a seat on a boat across the Channel.