Are Faroes A New Gateway For Illegal Immigrants To Be Trafficked Into Scotland?

Are Faroes a new gateway for illegal migrants to be trafficked into Scotland?

June 4, 2007

Investigation into possible immigration route via Faroes
Faroes self-governing territory of Denmark with required passport check
Ten illegal immigrants arrested after having used this route

Key quote
“We have been made aware of this as a possible route into the UK. We are carrying out a scoping exercise to see how big this issue is. It could be something of a one-off, or it could indicate a much bigger problem.” – CI JIM BOYLE

Story in full HUMAN traffickers have opened up a new people-smuggling route into Scotland, with migrants entering the country illegally from the Faroe Islands.

Immigration officers have launched an operation to uncover the extent of the problem after the discovery in recent weeks of a number of illegal workers living in the North-east who had exploited common travel areas between Denmark, the Faroes and Shetland to reach the UK.

The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) believes this could be the tip of the iceberg and is concerned gangmasters may be arranging for large numbers of migrants to travel from the Continent to Scotland via the Faroes, evading border checks and heavy immigration staff presence at busier ports.

It is thought the closure in December 2002 of France's controversial Sangatte refugee camp, which housed up to 2,000 people on the outskirts of Calais, has led migrants and human traffickers to seek new routes into Britain, including using the Faroes as a staging post.

Two groups of Asian men, arrested for entering the country illegally, have said they reached Scotland by travelling from Denmark to the Faroes and then Shetland. They are thought to number fewer than ten, but police are concerned that they indicate the presence of a significant human-trafficking route.

Chief Inspector Jim Boyle, who heads a 14-strong team of officers seconded to the BIA, said a “scoping exercise” was being launched by police in Aberdeen to determine how many people were entering Scotland via the north Atlantic islands.

“It's something we are looking at very closely,” he said. “We have been made aware of this as a possible route into the UK.

“We are carrying out a scoping exercise to see how big this issue is. It could be something of a one-off, or it could indicate a much bigger problem.”

According to Home Office, more than 700 migrants have been caught working illegally in Scotland in the past three years, but this figure does not include those arrested on police-led operations, and the true extent of the problem is thought to be far higher.

Travellers entering the Faroes from Denmark are supposed to declare if they are from a country outwith Scandinavia. While police and customs officers do carry out checks at the main port of Trshavn, it is relatively easy for a foreign national to enter the islands, which are a self-governing territory of Denmark.

Superintendent Ray Helm, the head of the BIA's UK police liaison team, said the traditional links between the Faroes and Shetland made it potentially easier for people to travel between the two areas undetected, although Smyril Line, the company that operates the only ferry service between the islands, recently introduced compulsory passport checks for passengers.

He insisted that many of the people who were going to great lengths to reach the UK were victims both of extreme poverty in their homelands and of criminals gangs, who were charging them thousands of pounds to arrange for their transport.

And once they reached their destination, they often had to live in appalling conditions.

Last month, Mr Helm told a conference of police superintendents that illegal immigrants trafficked into the country had been found crammed into horse stables and loft spaces.

“These aren't people who chose to come here off their own backs. This is organised criminality on a massive scale,” he said.

“How do Somalians get to Dundee or Inverness? They get there because there are established criminal networks working there.”

Jens Jensen, a detective sergeant with the criminal police department in Trshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, said: “We are not aware of a major problem, but there are always people who try to bend the rules.

“We are very interested to know if this is a big problem, as we have close co-operation with the UK police.”

Related topic
Immigration and refugees

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Last updated: 04-Jun-07 01:34 BST