The Home Office has refused to say how much public money is being spent on storing confiscated dinghies and boats used by criminal gangs to bring would-be asylum seekers to the UK.
It says it is not in the public interest to reveal information about the storage costs nor where the vessels are.
It follows a Freedom of Information request first made by KentOnline earlier this year, which sought details of the storage fees and their location.
The request also established that a pledge to donate some of the dinghies to charitable groups and youth organisations was yet to get off the ground.
The Border Force rejected that request and now the Home Office has dismissed an appeal we made – saying disclosure would help the criminal gangs.
In its response turning down our appeal, the Home Office argued: “Disclosure would enable potential criminals to circumvent the rules by building up a picture of the detection rate of abandoned dinghies used by clandestine migrants to travel to the UK, how many feature in prosecution cases, and location of storage.
"This, together with other information obtainable via FOI requests or other open sources such as media coverage and other information freely available on the internet, could be used by individuals with criminal intent to evade detection.”
It acknowledged there was an argument for disclosure on the grounds it would reassure the public, saying: "We recognise that there is a public interest in ensuring confidence in the United Kingdom’s border control.
"Disclosure could help build greater public confidence in the operational procedures in place along the coastline."
However, it rejected those arguments saying: "These factors are insufficient to outweigh the overall and very strong public interest in avoiding the prejudice... if the information were to be disclosed to the world at large under the FOIA."
Dover District Council member Cllr Eddie Biggs (Lab) criticised the decision.
"The argument that more disclosure of the costs is not in the public interest is fundamentally flawed," he said. "It is simply covering up the money being spent by a government that has no understanding of the fundamental problem and how to solve it.
"The British people need to have full disclosure of the costs of this flawed policy in order that an open inquiry can be held to establish a policy that will produce the results that stop these tragic journeys that all too often result in loss of life on the Kent coast."
The government has a track record of withholding information about its strategy for curbing clandestine migrant seekers.
It rejected a separate request made by KentOnline for information about the £54 million allocated to the French authorities to curb the activities of criminal gangs involved in people smuggling.
It argued that release of the information "could jeopardise diplomatic relations" if placed in the public domain.
Since the start of this year, 9,330 people have reached the UK after crossing the Channel in small boats in 2022.
There were 28,526 people detected arriving on small boats in 2021 compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.