Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stranraer 'Border' Agency Cutbacks

There is a certain cruel irony that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has announced the cutting in funding of three officers at Stranraer harbour. The reason of course is that the exact number of officers who carried out the dubious stop and search on me and Mícheál upon our return the other Sunday. Apparently the total number of seconded officers at Stranraer was three, so it looks like we had draw the attention of the full force of the law, on a Sunday!

In defence that his officers at the port where worth retaining, at what is a domestic port, the Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Pat Shearer said that just the other weekend they had caught illegal immigrants. Not at the port itself but on the Motorway. MOTORWAY!!!

For those of you not familiar with Dumfries and Galloway I have included a map to show the nearest Motorway to the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan.

To the North the closest point of the M77 is North of Kilmarnock and 64.4 miles or 103.6 km away from Stranraer (according to AA Route Calculator). To get there it is basically largely a single carriage road for the bulk of it. With crawler lanes on some of the hilly parts and going through a number of towns and villages to get there. The reckon it takes 1 hours 31 minutes to get there, it is also not in the Dumfries and Galloway constabulary jurisdiction being in Strathclyde.

To the East the road is easier, bypassing the bulk of towns and villages but the closest point of the M74 is at Lockerbie. 84.9 miles (136.6km) or 2 hrs 2 mins.

So you have to ask to ask what sort of defence having officers at an internal only ferry port is to catching illegal immigrants when they are actually caught almost at the other end of the constabulary's area of responsibility. Maybe they were too busy not answering our questions to deal with those coming off the ferry, which hadn't even docked yet.

Even those detected and apprehended on the Motorway were apparently held not with the support of the UKBA at all but with the normal constabulary resource. So the lack of more expensive, seconded officers to UKBA would appear to not have had a effect.

The Stranraer and Cairnryan routes will not be without UKBA agents however. They will merely be stations on the Belfast and Larne sides. The side closer to the UK only land boundary to another state, or where illegal immigrants are more likely to have entered and be seeking to travel elsewhere within the majority of the UK.

It was something that the Lib Dems campaigned on at the General Election that we do not know the number of illegal immigrants that are currently within our country. The estimates vary considerably. We're a set of islands therefore with the support of Ireland we could control the flow in, if we wanted. The issue of then tracking down those already inside is up to the various agencies involved. We'd stood on an amnesty for those here long term, as they are likely to have settled and become useful cogs in our economies wheels.

Of course the Tories want to pull out of agreements with the rest of EU that could help us control incomers to the EU as a whole. The benefits of throwing the borders out wider and the net further is spreading the cost, responsibilty and manpower.

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