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Stretched UK Border Force 'resourced to fail' and unable to stop illegal entry

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 13/11/2018 Charles Hymas
David Bolt was told by Border Force officers it was “resourced to fail” © REUTERS/Neil Hall David Bolt was told by Border Force officers it was “resourced to fail”

Britain’s borders have been left open to illegal immigrants because of chronic staff shortages at ports, the chief inspector of borders and immigration has revealed.

David Bolt was told by Border Force officers it was “resourced to fail” with borders “not secured by any stretch of the imagination” due to the shortages at Dover, Portsmouth, Southampton and Poole.

Officers at Portsmouth and Poole told his team of inspectors that they were “not remotely confident” they were preventing attempts by illegal immigrants to sneak into Britain.

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They were so stretched they could not check trailers for migrants at the same time as dealing with the flow of tourists and travellers. They said the “spike” in illegal migrants had put such a strain on resources that they could not deal with catching more than one illegal immigrant at a time.

“Officers at Portsmouth told inspectors that migrants were well aware of the Border Force’s limited resources, and they would split up and hide in different trailers in the belief that if one was detected the force would not have the capacity to search the other trailers as thoroughly,” said the report.

a blue truck parked in a parking lot: A lorry passes beneath a 'check-in' sign as it leaves the Port of Dover © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg A lorry passes beneath a 'check-in' sign as it leaves the Port of Dover

Officers were also not routinely inspecting the boots or the back seats of cars including those with tinted windows despite the threat of illegal immigrants being a “very high” priority. 

In Poole, Dorset, inspectors found that a scanner that can detect illegals within lorries was not being used because the team that operated it had been deployed to Gatwick airport.

Mr Bolt also revealed that not a single fine had been imposed on anyone caught bringing in illegal immigrants since July 2016 and he described the fining system for offenders as “broken” and in need of “urgent attention”.

Video: No-deal Brexit would adversely affect border management (ITN News)

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This was despite illegal immigrants increasingly targeting Portsmouth, Poole and Southampton from Normandy and Spain to avoid improved security in northern France. 

Dover saw a fall in a third in the number of illegal immigrants caught to 503 in the past year.

There was also a growing risk from small craft, which are getting easier and cheaper to obtain and allow traffickers more options, said Mr Bolt. Border Force had so far failed to harness the support of harbour masters, marina managers, boating communities and the general public to be their “eyes and ears” regarding suspicious activity.

Mr Bolt demanded a fundamental review of the requirements of each south coast port and a regular risk test of every means of entry by illegals. He also criticised Border Force for failing to respond quickly enough.

“I recognise it 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. 

“However, it is difficult to escape the impression that Border Force believes it knows best and will make changes only on its own terms and at its own pace.”

Border Force said it is recruiting 1,000 officers nationally to “meet normal staff turnover” as well as an additional 300 front line officers. 

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