Border agency promises a co-ordinated approach
By Stuart Arnold
The Northern Echo
April 4, 2008
THE man in charge of the region's revamped border controls last night promised a more robust co-ordinated approach to tackling illegal immigrants.
Chris Hudson, the regional director of the UK Border Agency, which was launched yesterday, defended changes which will see border, immigration, customs and visa functions brought together under one roof.
Teesport has been designated as one of the agency's flagship sites under the reforms.
From the summer, the port will be one of five UK entry points where passengers and goods will be checked at a single point, rather than the current twin customs and passport checks.
Mr Hudson, who is responsible for the North-East and Yorkshire, said: “We are bringing together border controls so they are far more robust and protect the British public better.
“The purpose is to make it more difficult for people to come into the country illegally and to smuggle goods in, but, at the same time, we want to make it as easy as possible for legitimate travellers to come into the country.
“When you get two or more organisations, although you can work closely together, it is that bit harder to make sure that everything is fully joined up. This will make it even easier to share information.”
Mr Hudson said the single control approach will be introduced at the region's two airports, Durham Tees Valley and Newcastle International, as well as the Port of Tyne.
Yesterday, figures released by the agency showed that 355 people were removed from the region and sent back to their home countries between April last year and March.
They included failed asylum seekers and illegal workers.
Mr Hudson said: “These numbers are significant and we continue to strengthen our enforcement activity.”
There have been worries about illegal immigrants being brought into the region and forced to work as sex workers, or operate cannabis farms.
Mr Hudson said the agency had no one single priority when it came to crime fighting, but he admitted that there were concerns about the volume of migration into the UK, describing it as a “complex picture”. He also defended the agency against criticism that police were not included in the new set-up.
He said: “Our uniformed officers will be searching for signs of smuggled goods or immigration abuse and will, for the first time, have police-like powers to detain criminal suspects for non-immigration crime.
“As for the police, we already work very closely with them and further thought will be given to co-operating with them even more.”
The agency, which will face a number of tough targets, including the deportation of 5,000 foreign criminals this year, will have a new logo and uniforms for its staff.
5:02am Friday 4th April 2008