The UK Border Agency reports that a Bulgarian couple from London have been arrested by the French Border Police for attempting to smuggle a wheelchair-bound Iraqi man into the UK in their car.
The British-registered vehicle was stopped by UK Border Agency officers based in Calais as it approached British controls shortly after 10:00 on Sunday 21 November.
They checked the husband and wife’s passports, as well as documents belonging to their passenger.
The officers soon realised that he was travelling using a Bulgarian identity, which is believed to have been doctored with a substituted photo.
As members of the European Union, Bulgarians have visa-free access to the UK, however, like Romanians, they do not enjoy the same rights to work as the earlier Eastern European EU accession countries such as Poland and Latvia.
Many start businesses, which is allowed, or work and study on a Yellow Card Visa. Romanian and Bulgarian Students taking vocational or sandwich courses, such as NVQ in Health and Social Care, are allowed to work full time, as stated on their Yellow Cards.
At first, officers were unable to ascertain the passenger’s true nationality as he couldn’t write and claimed not to be able to speak. However, the man pinpointed his homeland – Iraq – on a world map.
The man later revealed he was able to speak when he asked officers for a cigarette.
The husband was refused entry by the UK Border Agency and handed over to the French Border Police to be arrested for alleged people smuggling. Although bailed, he has been forced to hand over his brand new £35,000 BMW as assurance that he will attend court on January 18 2011.
His wife has been allowed to return to Streatham to be with her 7 year old son.
Carole Upshall, in charge of UK Border Agency operations in Northern France, said:
‘This is exactly why we base so many British officers overseas – to prevent attempts, such as this one, to get in to the country illegally.
‘In this case, we also suspect substantial sums of money would have changed hands had the attempt been successful.
‘I am grateful to the work of the French authorities in working with us to break up organised criminal networks seeking to breach our common border.’
In 2009, the UK Border Agency stopped over 29,000 individual attempts to cross the channel illegally and searched over 1,000,000 freight vehicles.
Officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.
They use an array of search techniques including detection dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners as well as visual searches to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and cigarettes. Source: UK Border Agency.
Last week Immigration Matters reported that 5,000 jobs will be axed at the UK Border Agency over the next four years, according to its Chief Executive.
Lin Homer said 1,700 jobs had been cut so far this year but thousands more could go as the agency, responsible for controlling migration and securing UK borders, is forced to make budget cuts of about 20%.
The cuts, which are part of a massive UK government budget cuts programme, have raised serious concerns about the ability of the UK Border Agency to effectively control UK borders and enforce immigration controls.
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