MP to discuss port fears

DUMFRIES and Galloway MP Russell Brown is set to meet the independent UKBA inspector next week to discuss his concerns about security arrangements at the Galloway Ports.

Russell Brown will meet John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, on Tuesday 3 July in London. John Vine independently reviews operations at the UKBA and last year issued a critical report into the operations of the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It said that there were intelligence gaps relating to potential risks to the border and raised particular concern about the way the agency managed the risks associated with people landing in the Irish Republic and travelling onto the UK. It also said that the Border Agency was operating on intelligence more than two years old.

Russell Brown will be discussing his concerns about security arrangements at the Galloway Ports following the cuts in Ports Police by both UK and Scottish Governments. The number of immigration offenders travelling through the ports has soared since both Governments slashed police numbers at the ports. Between January 2011 and December 2011 the number of immigration offenders detected travelling on the route between Northern Ireland and Dumfries and Galloway soared by 145% compared to the previous year. The number of immigration offences detected at the Galloway Ports alone increased by 33% over the same period. Last week Dumfries and Galloway seized over £2 billion worth of drugs at the ports, one of the largest hauls ever.

Earlier this week Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote to Russell Brown and admitted he is concerned by the ‘significant increase’ in the number of immigration offenders seeking to abuse the route between Northern Ireland and Dumfries and Galloway. However, he refused to consider holding a joint review with the UK Government into the arrangements.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “I will be discussing my serious concerns about the security arrangements at the Galloway Ports with the Independent Inspector, John Vine. He has previously been critical of the UKBA and I will be looking to see what action we can take to tackle the problems at the ports.

“The Galloway Ports have been hit by a double whammy of cuts from both the UK and Scottish Governments. Since they slashed ports police the numbers of immigration offenders travelling through the ports has soared. We were told we didn’t have to worry about the ports police being cut because beefed up arrangements at the Northern Ireland end would take care of the problem. That policy has completely failed.

“As well as being a nexus point for illegal immigration, the Galloway Ports are becoming a magnet for drug smuggling. Only last week the Police seized over £2 million of cannabis, one of their largest hauls ever.”