Harwich at forefront of border patrol

CRIMINAL gangs trying to make their way into England through an Essex port will now be facing a new and tougher challenge.

James Hore

CRIMINAL gangs trying to make their way into England through an Essex port will now be facing a new and tougher challenge.

The work of immigration and customs at Harwich International Port will now be combined at a “primary checkpoint” designed to strengthen border controls across the region.

Passengers arriving at the famous port will now have both customs and immigration checks carried out in the same place.

Customs and immigration officers have been combined into a 130-team for the newly-formed UK Border Agency.

Since the beginning of the year officers protecting the port have stopped more than 70 illegal immigrants gaining entry to the UK and seized drugs with a street value of £15 million.

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Speaking at Harwich yesterday, the head of the Border Force, Brodie Clark said: “I came to Harwich International Port to find out how customs and immigration officers have come together in a single workforce.

“The new primary checkpoint will speed up the entry of genuine passengers, but make it even harder for illegal immigrants and goods to be smuggled into the UK.

“Our single Border Force, with new police-like powers, is the public face of the biggest shake-up of Britain's border security for 45 years.

“Staff at Harwich are the frontline for identifying threats to our border security. Criminals don't care how they make money. They smuggle people and illegal goods that put all of us in danger. That's why we need a single Border Force to stop them.”

Border Force officers now have powers enabling them to -

n Share intelligence to target illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and revenue cheats.

n Prosecute traffickers and people smugglers who make money out of human misery.

n Search vehicles for smuggled people and goods and detain and search people, vehicles and goods.

Harwich was chosen as one of five pilot flagship ports as a primary checkpoint with operations starting earlier this month.

The other pilot ports in the UK are Edinburgh, Gatwick and Teesport along with Coquelles, France.

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