Sharp rise in illegal immigrants held as border controls tightened
The number of illegal immigrants detained at ports and airports has increased by 200% after security was beefed up in Northern Ireland.
Immigration Minister Damian Green revealed the sharp rise after a Scottish MP complained that cuts to border police had left his constituency open to illegal access and smuggling.
Mr Green also defended the decision to focus operations more on Northern Ireland rather than the west coast of Scotland.
And he said that 175 criminals were detected at sea and airports in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland in the four months from January to April — a 200% rise on the same period last year.
He added: “This suggests we are doing much better at getting to the root of the problem.”
Stormont Justice Minister David Ford held “constructive” meetings with Scottish counterpart Kenny MacAskill and the UK Border Agency this week.
Mr Green said there were more UK Border Agency workers in Northern Ireland than ever before, pointing to the case of immigration fraudster Fayyaz Ahmed, who was arrested at Belfast docks in February with details of over 700 false identity documents.
Intelligence shows that most illegal immigrant traffic comes from the Republic through Northern Ireland and on to Scotland, he said, so it “makes sense” to move resources to Northern Ireland.
Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, had claimed western Scottish ports were a “well-known route” for illegal immigrants and for criminal gangs smuggling contraband goods and illegal drugs.
He said: “The Galloway ports have suffered a double-whammy of cuts, first from the SNP government in Edinburgh, and then from the Conservative-led coalition Government.”