MP slams immigration vanishing acts

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Local Labour MP Russell Brown has once again blasted the UK Border Agency’s attempts at dealing with illegal immigrants who have absconded.

Following his criticism of security at Galloway’s ports after concerns about the high number of immigration offenders attempting to enter through them, Mr Brown has called a new report by the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration “damning”.

The MP for Dumfries and Galloway said: “This damning report by the Independent Inspector reinforces one of my main fears about the dangerous situation at the Galloway Ports. For months I have been raising my deep concern about the inability of UKBA to keep track of immigration offenders who enter through our ports and then disappear.

“The Galloway Ports are well know nexus points for illegal immigration and what I dread the most is someone committing a serious crime or terrorist act and then being traced back to our ports.”

In the forward to his report, centred on travel from sea ports in southern England, the Independent Inspector John Vine stated he was worried about the lack of emphasis that the Border Agency places on the work “to locate and remove absconders from the UK”. He added that the Agency must be more proactive in dealing with absconders.

Reports from officers of Dumfries and Galloway Police, originating from Freedom of Information requests, said the only course of action available to them when dealing with illegal immigrants is to release them with instructions to attend a UKBA office.

They cited a case where two illegal immigrants, having been detained in Belfast overnight, were instructed to report to the UKBA offices in the city upon their release. The pair were discovered disembarking at Stranraer the next day and given similar instructions to report to the UKBA in Glasgow, a move the officers described as “alien to the police mindset”.

Mr Brown added: “It is no surprise that many people who have entered the country illegally chose not to hand themselves in to a Border Agency office, choosing instead to abscond. Where are those people now? The alarming fact is that the Government has no idea.

“Dumfries and Galloway police’s assessment of the current procedures is scathing and they have described an alarming case of having to release illegal immigrants they knew full well were going to abscond.

“Now the independent chief inspector has not only exposed that the Agency has major problems locating absconders right across the country, but he criticises the Border Agency for not acting to sort it out. How much longer can the Government keep its head in the sand before it acts?”

However, Conservative MP David Mundell praised the efforts of the UKBA and Dumfries and Galloway Police in a statement released by the Scotland Office, following the publication of a UKBA report detailing the efforts of the Agency policing the Irish Sea.

From January to December 2011, 281 illegal immigrants were caught trying to travel across the Irish Sea, 231 of which were attempting to enter Britian from the Irish sea ports.

Mr Mundell said: “Over the past 18 months UKBA and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary have worked collaboratively on the policing of Stranraer Ports. This report highlights how their combined efforts have ensured that a greater number of illegal immigrants have been intercepted in their attempts to travel onto mainland UK.

“Going forward it will be very important that UKBA continues to monitor working operations carefully. Later this month, I look forward to visiting both UKBA operations in Northern Ireland and meeting with Dumfries and Galloway Police and other interested stakeholders in Stranraer to see this ongoing work for myself and discuss the issues raised by the report.”