Sunday, 16 July 2017

UK Ports Border Security ‘Stretched’



UK border security weaknesses have been identified at sea ports on the east coast of England as well as in Scotland, according to the BBC.

An Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) appointed by the UK Home secretary to monitor customs’ effectiveness has released a report on UK border security.
Its report found half of the UK’s small ports, marinas and wharfs had not been visited by the Border Force for more than a year.
Issues, such as staff shortages, were found at Harwich, Tilbury, Felixstowe, Rosyth and Immingham ports.
Too few staff were available with the know-how to use specialist scanners in certain ports. One port had lost most of its experienced scanner drivers to voluntary exit schemes designed to achieve budget reductions.
Hull Port border security processes were delayed in part due to the taking of fingerprints of illegal immigrants using wet ink.
On hearing of the report, the Home Office accepted improvements could be made.
Chief Inspector David Bolt said: "The inspection found that Border Force, given the practicalities, was generally efficient and effective in managing the fixed immigration control points at the major seaports, and in dealing on an intelligence-led basis with vehicle and freight arrivals.
"By contrast, coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas was poor.
"The overall sense was that Border Force was stretched, in some instances too thinly, but coping."

Harwich port sees huge rise in people smuggling while in Felixstowe it’s drugs, tobacco and 3,600 stun-guns

PUBLISHED: 16:27 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:50 13 July 2017
Harwich port has seen an increase in clandestine arrivals. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY
Harwich port has seen an increase in clandestine arrivals. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

More “clandestine arrivals” were detected at a north Essex port last year than any other on the east coast – amid increasing reports of people smuggling and concerns smaller marinas were going unprotected.

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Felixstowe port recorded large seizures of contraband, including 3,600 stun guns. Picture: MICK WEBBFelixstowe port recorded large seizures of contraband, including 3,600 stun guns. Picture: MICK WEBB
Harwich recorded 150 smuggled migrants in 2015/16, according to an inspection report, while the overall figure for the six large ports inspected showed a near doubling in the number of migrants detained year on year.
Figures for Felixstowe showed few immigrant arrivals. However its port seizures in April and May 2016 included four tons of tobacco, 2.5 million cigarettes, 40 kilos of cannabis and 3,600 stun guns.
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Bolt, who wrote the report into east coast ports said while Border Force was “stretched in some instances too thinly” it was “generally efficient and effective” at major seaports.
Coverage at small ports, however, was said to be “poor” – with nearly half of those surveyed having gone a year without a visit from Border Force officials. 
Border Force officials at a yacht in Orford, where people smugglers were reported to have come ashore. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYBorder Force officials at a yacht in Orford, where people smugglers were reported to have come ashore. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY
The report warned it could lead to “missed opportunities” in intelligence gathering and “no visible deterrent” to prevent smuggling of immigrants or contraband through these ports. 
This newspaper has reported previously on concerns that isolated stretches of Suffolk’s coastline had become a “smuggler’s paradise”. Orford and Bawdsey have both been involved in recent people smuggling cases.
This week, a court heard how a Romanian criminal who was deported five years ago had managed to return to Britain 13 times before being arrested for stealing an 81-year-old woman’s purse in an Ipswich car park. 
Border Force said in response to the report it was recruiting more field intelligence officers to visit smaller ports. 
Passenger ferries are said to be a target for people smugglers. Picture: PAGEPIX LTDPassenger ferries are said to be a target for people smugglers. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD
The agency has a 24-hour presence at both Harwich and Felixstowe, where officers were said to be dealing “appropriately” with arrivals.
The biggest threat of people smuggling is on ferries, particularly from the Hook of Holland and Zeebrugge in Belgium, with tourists crossing regarded by Border Force as a target for migrants. 
The report found Border Force was making “good use” of intelligence to assess the threat and risk of clandestine entry.
However it highlighted “inconsistencies” in working practices. While Border Force searched passenger vehicles arriving at Hull from the Hook of Holland, it carried out none on those arriving in Harwich. 
Border Force says it has increased its coastal patrol vessels. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYBorder Force says it has increased its coastal patrol vessels. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY
Officers told inspectors Harwich relies on checks by the Dutch authorities, but the report warned they were “not a guarantee”.
It said clandestine entries took various forms including some who paid “criminal facilitators” to be smuggled into the country. Just yesterday a man who tried to smuggle 22 illegal immigrants through Harwich hidden behind washing machines was jailed for three years and eight months.
While the report said Border Force staff were generally coping with growing pressures, officers had also raised concerns about the loss of experienced staff and how this had affected its capabilities.
Several “backlogs” at Felixstowe were mentioned as examples of this. In one case, a consignment of perishable goods was left waiting more than three months to be searched. It meant the load was in an “advanced stage of decomposition” and required a specialist contractor to be paid to examine it.
More than 11 million cigarettes were seized at Felixstowe. Picture: BORDER FORCEMore than 11 million cigarettes were seized at Felixstowe. Picture: BORDER FORCE
Mr Bolt said he made a number of recommendations to the Home Office and had since received responses that gave confidence Border Force was implementing the necessary improvements. 
The Home Office said it was pleased the report found Border Force operations at major seaports “efficient and effective” but accepted that improvements can be made and agreed to take forward its recommendations.
A spokesman said Border Force was already improving its presence at smaller ports by doubling its fleet of coastal patrol vessels and increasing the focus of its field intelligence officers.
“Additionally, we have set up the Maritime Information Bureau to ensure our operations are targeted based on the threat facing our coastline, keeping communities safe,” the spokesman added. 
“With over 11,000 miles of coastline, it is crucial that Border Force uses intelligence to prioritise its resources. 
“We are also working, including through the organised immigration crime task force and with international partners, to target gangs involved in smuggling people and illicit goods before they arrive on our shores.”


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Flag of Convenience Cargo Ship Detained by UK Authorities

Unions Describe Appalling Conditions Aboard Turkish Vessel 

UK – TURKEY – Maritime unions are up in arms over the pay and conditions allegedly being endured aboard the general cargo ship Seccadiwhich has been detained by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency at a lay-by berth at Manisty, Ellesmere Port, where it was recently moved to from Runcorn by Peel Ports after languishing there for some time. The Turkish owners, Voda Shipping, have apparently just recently responded to questions from the authorities regarding the status of the Turkish and Indian crew aboard the Panama registered vessel. 


Some of the Indian crew have apparently been aboard for an entire year and, despite the fact that after pressure from the Nautilus Union and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) a claim amounting to in excess of £50,000 in back pay has now mostly been settled, problems still remain for those trapped on board. Nautilus International/ITF ship inspector Tommy Molloy, who lodged protests with the Turkish owners and the Panama ship registry over the shocking conditions, found no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat on board the ship and there was a cockroach infestation in the galley. He observed: 
“When crew are not paid for more than two months, not repatriated and do not have the basic food requirements to sustain a healthy diet, then they are considered to have been abandoned. The North West Port Welfare Committee and the good people of Merseyside are rallying round and have taken it upon themselves to look after the crew’s welfare. Fresh fruit and vegetables have been provided by the Seafarers Centre, who are also ensuring they have adequate shore leave as a diversion from their plight. Others have offered cash donations to cover their basic needs. That they do so speaks volumes for their good hearts. That they have to in 2017 is a disgrace. 
”Everybody concerned has given the operator ample opportunity to resolve this matter. What nobody wanted is another crew stuck here for months on end relying on the goodwill of local people and organisations to keep them alive. Having given the crew a period to remain in the UK whilst we attempted to resolve the matter, it seems the Border Force had little option but to advise the owner that they would have to remove the crew and return them to their home countries. 
”This would have meant that a replacement crew from outside of the EU would not be allowed in to the UK and in all likelihood an application would have been made to the Admiralty Marshall for judicial sale of the vessel to settle all outstanding debts and costs incurred. This was a real concern for the crew. If removed by Border Force, they would have ‘Deported’ stamped on their passports. 
”This would have catastrophic consequences for their future careers as seafarers. We have worked with all concerned to try to avoid this outcome. If the ship owner finally delivers on its obligations, then it will have been worthwhile. We are not counting any chickens yet but we have to be hopeful that this will bring the matter to a successful conclusion.” 
Yet again we have seen a flag of convenience vessel detained by the UK authorities manned by a crew which has been treated essentially as slave labour, some of the Seccadi crew were reportedly being paid just 66 pence per hour until the union intervention, a clear breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) by the owners, a company which also has other vessels detained in the ports of Sharpness and Thirsk, both with similar problems.