Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown has said that the announcement on Monday of the creation of a new UK Border Force, formed by splitting up the UK Border Agency, should be used as an opportunity to look at the role of the force in dealing with illegal immigration through the Galloway ports.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the UK Border Force will now be run independently from the UK Border Agency, following revelations that hundreds of thousands of people were let into the country without appropriate checks at UK airports and ports. A report by John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), found that security checks were “suspended regularly and applied inconsistently”. Mr Brown said there was a “real scandal taking place at the Galloway ports” that must be addressed by the new border force. Although they are technically internal ports, they are well known within the criminal community as the “soft underbelly” of the UK’s border security.
It was revealed last year that Dumfries and Galloway police had no option but to release people detained for entering the country illegally, even though they were probably going to abscond. The current procedure requires local police to release people detained under suspicion of entering the country illegally with nothing more than instructions to appear at a UKBA office in Glasgow, Manchester or London.
In 2009, the Scottish government announced it was cutting 14.5 police officers from the Galloway ports and in 2010 the UK government withdrew UK Border Agency funding for three officers at the ports.
Mr Brown said: “The procedures in place to deal with illegal immigration through the Galloway ports aren’t fit for purpose. Although they are technically internal ports, they are well known within the criminal community as the soft underbelly of the UK’s border security.
“Although the headlines in recent days have been because of checks relaxed at international airports and ports, there is a real scandal taking place at the Galloway ports. We are just scratching the surface of the immigration problem there.
“Both Scottish and UK governments have reduced manpower at the ports by cutting funding for ports police. Dumfries and Galloway police should be commended for their efforts at the ports, but it is outrageous that they have had no option but to release people who are here illegally that they know are probably going to abscond. It makes a mockery of our border security when illegal immigrants are entering the mainland through the ports near Cairnryan right under the noses of the authorities. The Home Secretary has rightly been criticised for presiding over a system where the proper checks weren’t taking place at airports, but at the Galloway ports we are in the ridiculous position of the police actually having to release suspects they’ve caught on nothing more than the hope that they will do as instructed and appear at a UKBA office.
“John Vine, the independent inspector of the Border Agency, has previously raised concerns about the way the Border Agency manages the risks associated with people landing in the Irish Republic and travelling onto the UK. The government has failed to take this problem seriously and now it is splitting the UK Border Agency up into a separate dedicated Border Force, I want to see it give the problem at the Galloway ports the attention and resources it deserves. If the new Border Force is to correct the mistakes of the UKBA, then it has to close the loophole at the Galloway ports.”