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Labour to attack border 'failures'

Coalition failures over border controls have led to a major drop in the number of illegal immigrants being deported and fewer illegal drugs being seized, Labour will claim today.

Yvette Cooper will also accuse the government of letting "dodgy" firms get away with exploiting illegal workers and undercutting local wages.

The Shadow Home Secretary will claim the Tories have failed to tackle illegal immigration because they were too focused on trying, but failing, to meet Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.

Ms Cooper will underline Labour's plans to recruit an extra 1,000 border force workers and increase fines for firms employing staff illegally.

"The Tories have failed to tackle illegal immigration because it never counted towards their flagship net migration target, which now lies in tatters," she will say.

"These figures show the Government is deporting fewer illegal immigrants and seizing fewer illegal drugs. They are also letting more dodgy firms get away with breaking the rules for profit, employing people illegally and exploiting them to undercut local jobs and wages."

Labour highlighted Home Office figures showing enforced immigrant removals fell by 13% to 13,313 from 2009 to 2013. The number of people stopped at the border and later returned dropped from 26,378 in the final year of the last Labour government to 14,473 in 2013/14 - a 45% fall.

According to the party's analysis of House of Commons Library research, there was a drop of £125 million in the value of Ecstasy, cannabis and heroin seized by Border Force in England and Wales last year compared to 2010. That includes a 96% fall in the quantity of cannabis resin seized and an 81% drop in Ecstasy hauls.

Parliamentary figures show a big reduction in the number of employers imprisoned for using illegal workers - down from 35 in 2009/10 to 4 in 2013.

The number of employers being fined for knowingly employing illegal immigrants fell from 2,254 in 2009/10 to 2,090 in 2013/14.

Ms Cooper will add: "It's unfair on everyone - the port authorities and border staff working hard to keep our country safe, responsible businesses who employ people on a fair wage and communities across the country, as local jobs and wages are undercut.

"Labour has a better plan, we will recruit an additional 1,000 border force staff - funded by introducing a small fee for non-visa visitors to the UK - to ensure immigration rules are enforced and the system is fair.

"We will also significantly increase fines for employing illegal immigrants, make exploitation a crime and increase enforcement checks - helped by the additional 1,000 border force staff we will recruit by introducing a small fee for non-visa visitors to the UK."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Even their own MPs admit that Labour left our borders in chaos. Over five years we have tightened up the system to crack down on illegal immigration and make our borders more secure.

"Labour opposed all of this - and everything we have done to make the immigration system more robust. Their plans don't add up and their record was woeful - that's why they shouldn't be given the chance to mess our borders and immigration system up again."

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Ms Cooper said it was not true to say Labour had opposed all reforms. She said the party had backed measures it supported in Commons votes.

Asked whether Labour would reinstate the UK Border Agency, she said: "I think what the Government in fact has done is quite a lot of shuffling the deck chairs, I don't think they've actually made any proper difference in the way controls take place at the border - they have simply reshuffled around where the managers sit.

"I do a lot of public meetings, talking to people about immigration all around the country. The top concern, always, is the rules not being enforced, about not dealing with illegal immigration and that is partly because they don't include it as part of their net migration target and therefore it is simply has not been enough of a Government focus for the last five years.

"We have supported a lot of new measures and voted for them in the House of Commons so (saying we oppose them) is simply not true. I think they haven't made the difference we need because they haven't got people actually to do the checks and to make sure the rules are enforced.

"That's why we think you can't get away from this in the end: you need people to do the job, to follow up cases and to make sure enforcement happens, make sure deportations happen."

The shadow home secretary added: "Immigration is really important to Britain. But it needs to be controlled and managed so the system is fair, we want people to have confidence in the system because we need to be open to talent and investment from all over the world.

"That's why we have always called for stronger action on exploitation that undercuts wages and jobs, that makes the system unfair. It's why we also called for stronger enforcement around illegal immigration because that makes the system unfair.

"We need overseas students coming to our greatest universities to do graduate degrees but we also need stronger controls and stronger rules to make sure we deal with the problems."

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