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'UK Border Force needs to open up'

23rd January 2014
Page 8
Page 8, 23rd January 2014 — 'UK Border Force needs to open up'
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By Robin Meczes PRESSURE IS mounting on the UK Border Force to be more open about its activities. The move comes after a group of MPs found the agency had neglected to carry out checks on trucks coming into the UK last year for clandestine immigrants and illicit goods In a report published last month on the border agency's work between April 2012 and September 2013, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) said the UK Border Force had had to "prioritise passenger checks at the expense of its other duties" and

that this had "led it to neglect other duties, such as the examination of freight for illicit goods, and to suspend checks in Calais on lorries to detect concealed illegal entrants".

Freight checks were suspended in Calais on 19 occasions from 6 to 8 April to improve traffic flow, for example, despite such checks being a matter of national security, said the MPs' report.

The report went on to call on the agency "to set out how it will ensure it delivers its full range of duties across all ports to provide the required level of national security". Road Haulage Association

head of international affairs Peter Cullum stressed that since the UK Border Force's truck checks were supposed to be intelligence-led, rather than transaction-led, the number of checks carried out was not the key issue. But he called on the agency to be more open about just how many truck checks it carried out, the number of clandestines discovered, and the number of successful prosecutions that resulted from that. "We've been asking [how many checks it carries out] for years and we've never had an answer," he told CM. "We are in constant discussions with the Home Office, but the information it reveals is

not always enough for us to make positive suggestions."

Don Armour, head of the international department at the Freight Transport Association, said he thought the number of checks being carried out was "adequate:but agreed that neglecting such checks could encourage more clandestines to target trucks, rather than passenger vehicles, in their attempts to reach the UK.

"The message needs to get to clandestines that transport operators and the Border Force are on the ball," he said.

The Home Office had not responded as CM went to press.

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