Auhtor: CIARAN MCGRATH
UK border guards are fighting a losing battle to secure Britain’s ports against illegal immigration, and are regularly finding themselves outflanked by groups with “better intel”, many of whom are pressing and probing for weak points in their bid to gain entry to the country, a shocking new report has revealed.
Officers at one port told inspectors people trying to enter the country unlawfully had successfully adapted their tactics to take advantage of Border Force’s “limited resources”, with the result being borders which were “not secured by any stretch of the imagination”. The warnings were outlined in an assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of immigration and customs operations at various south coast seaports. Publishing the report, chief inspector of borders and immigration, David Bolt, said: “I recognise that Border Force is dealing with many challenges, not just along the south coast but nationally, and that its job is not made any easier by having to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU without clarity as yet about what exactly this will involve.
The report examined the seaports of Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Plymouth, as well as coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas along the south coast.
Staff numbers were raised at each of the four seaports visited in person.
Some managers were concerned that Border Force was “resourced to fail”, the report said, adding: “Meanwhile, officers told inspectors that there were not enough of them to meet increasing operational pressures, and one group commented that ‘the border is not secured by any stretch of the imagination’.”
Regional senior managers confirmed that ports had been operating below their budgeted headcounts, but pointed to ongoing recruitment exercises aimed at rectifying this.
Officers at Portsmouth told inspectors that migrants were “were well aware of Border Force’s limited resources”, and would split up and hide in different trailers in the belief that if one was detected the agency would not have the capacity to search the other trailers as thoroughly.
Staff were “certain” that illegal migrant groups co-ordinated their entry attempts, and commented that “their intel is a lot better than ours”.
Managers at Portsmouth and Poole reported that migrants were quick to change their tactics to avoid detection.
This included moving from one freight vehicle to another to minimise the build-up of carbon dioxide, frustrating checks.