Patrols stepped up in Orford and Bawdsey in response to fears over illegal immigrants

Orford - by Alan Pawsey

Orford - by Alan Pawsey - Credit: citizenside.com

Patrols are being stepped up along a secluded stretch of the Suffolk coast over concerns illegal immigrants and people smugglers are targeting the region.

Suffolk Constabulary and the UK Border Agency confirmed they are conducting regular patrols in the Bawdsey and Orford area to allay fears in the community.

The isolated beauty-spot was identified as a landing point for members of a Ukrainian people trafficking gang during a hearing at Ipswich Crown Court last year.

People living on the coast say the criminals are continuing their trafficking operations, protected by the cover of darkness.

Peter West, who operates river tours from Orford, said the problem still “raises its ugly head”.

“We know they are coming in – it seems to be a hot-spot for it,” he added.

“It’s one of the least inhabited areas on the east coast and at night the river’s hardly used at all.

“There’s no lights and it’s as black as anything, so you’ve got eight miles of river where they can get up quite easily.

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“How many people are coming in is anyone’s guess.”

Bawdsey parish councillor Lydia Calvesbert also highlighted the region’s vulnerability.

With most of Bawdsey’s coastal properties belonging to holiday letting agencies, she said the criminals could easily come ashore unseen.

“We are obviously not happy about it,” she added.

“If there are cars about at 3am you do wonder who it could be.”

Despite the ongoing fears, the increased vigilance of the authorities has been welcomed.

Woodbridge and District Safer Neighbourhood Team included immigration and smuggling between Bawdsey and Orford in its list of January priorities and Ms Calversbert said the police presence was evident and hopefully a deterrent.

“Recently the police have been very good,” she said. “They do come down and check it out.”

Mr West also highlighted the new quayside cameras introduced by Orford Town Trust as evidence the problem was being taken seriously.

“They have improved things, but what more can they do?” he said,

“You can’t have someone down here 24/7 and there’s not a lot else that can be done, it’s an ongoing concern.”

Suffolk Constabulary’s Sgt Scott Cullum, said: “We had an incident of people smuggling in July 2014 at Orford Quay, which resulted in three Ukrainian men being sentenced and jailed in October last year.

“Since that incident we have liaised with the UK Border Agency and we routinely patrol the coastal areas between Bawdsey and Orford which we make the public aware of at the priority setting meetings that we hold.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Border Force uses mobile teams to patrol and carry out checks at small ports and airfields. This allows officers to be deployed quickly on an intelligence-led basis.

“Our fleet of cutters patrolling off the coast also plays a vital role in preventing people smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration as was shown in the incident at Orford last July.

“We work closely with the police against the threat posed by criminals who try to breach our border controls.”

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