Bolivian led breach of Scottish border
The Herald (UK)
November 19 2008
A 30-year-old Bolivian led the largest single organised attempt to breach border controls in Scotland, immigration officials claimed yesterday.
Boris De La Zerda Velasco appeared on petition at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday after being detained by officers from the UK Border Agency at Edinburgh Airport on Friday amid claims that nearly 60 people from the South American country tried to enter Scotland illegally.
He faces charges under Section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971 relating to facilitating the illegal entry into Britain of Bolivian nationals, plus a charge under the Identity Cards Act 2006.
Eighteen other Bolivian nationals were detained at Edinburgh Airport on Friday night. All 18 have now been removed to Bolivia.
The arrests are linked to an incident at Aberdeen Airport on July 24, when around 40 Bolivians are alleged to have attempted to enter the country illegally.
On that occasion, however, restricted holding cell facilities meant only a small number could be detained.
Dozens were given “temporary admission” and told to return back to the airport next day to be deported.
Only two came back. Some others were caught but around 20 are still at large. The agency said it is attempting to trace them.
Murdo MacMillan, assistant director of the UKBA, said yesterday: “This arrest is the culmination of an intelligence-led operation between the UKBA and the police-led Scottish Immigration Crime Team. We believe that we have dealt a significant blow to an organised international criminal gang who were targeting Scotland on an unprecedented scale.
This sends out a clear signal that regional airports are not a soft touch
“People smugglers exploit the vulnerable by selling them dreams which frequently lead only to a life of misery and exploitation.
“Combined with our operation in Edinburgh last week, this sends out a clear signal that regional airports are not a soft touch.”
Officials believe the attempts, described as “an organised attack on our border”, have been prompted by planned changes to immigration rules that would mean greater restrictions on people travelling from a number of countries including Bolivia.
The tough new visa regimes could be introduced for 11 countries including Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
On the first occasion, the Bolivians are said to have travelled from La Paz in Bolivia to Peru then on to Amsterdam before landing at Aberdeen. It is believed the large number in the group attracted attention at the airport.
On Friday the Bolivians are thought to have travelled from La Paz to Peru and then to Frankfurt before arriving in Edinburgh.
But immigration officials said they were waiting for the second group as a result of intelligence received.
A UKBA source said of the Aberdeen incident: “We were able to hold some of them and others weren't released as such; they were given temporary admission. They were not given permission to enter the UK.
“These are some of the difficult decisions that people at ports and airports have to make. They are making risk assessments as well.”
He said gangs may also be trying new routes. It is not known if the groups planned to stay in Scotland or travel to England.
Bill Aitken MSP, Tory justice spokesman, said: “The fact that these people remain missing hardly comes as a surprise and demonstrates how the soft touch approach to theses matters is going to cost us dear. We will be living with the human difficulties that this (policy) has caused for many years to come.
Mr Velasco was remanded in custody and is due to appear in court again next week.