Lorry drivers pulling in to the Warwick Services on the M40 this week were greeted by UK Border Agency Immigration Officers cracking down on “illegal migrants who try to sneak into the United Kingdom”, the agency announced.
Border Officers from the UK Border Agency’s West Midlands headquarters, actually quite a long way from any UK border physical post, supported by Warwickshire police officers, used special Co2 probes to detect human breathing in the backs of lorries.
Officers patrolled the lorry park and talked to lorry drivers about immigrants who may have hidden in their vehicles at key border crossings to the United Kingdom such as Calais, gathering intelligence to help catch stowaways sooner.
Quite why the UK Border Agency chose to mount the raid in Warwick, some 183 miles or just under 300km from the port of Dover where most illegal migrants would first enter the UK on the back of a lorry, was not explained.
Drivers were also warned about the heavy financial penalties they could face if they fail to secure their lorries properly.
Simon Excell, UK Border Agency deputy director, said:
‘We have already seen a significant fall in illegal immigrants sneaking in to the United Kingdom thanks to high profile operations like this one and the deployment of a mobile detention van which patrols the motorways of the Midlands and East of England.
‘The message is getting out to would-be illegal migrants and organised smuggling gangs that we will catch them, we will detain them and we will deport them.’
Officers have already detained and impounded several vehicles after drivers and haulage companies were identified as not having paid civil penalties for failing to secure their vehicles during previous immigration checks.
Over £15,000 has so far been recovered in unpaid civil penalties from drivers and haulage companies.
Simon Excell added:
‘Our top priority is to stop would-be illegal immigrants before they reach the United Kingdom. That’s why we’ve got hundreds of British immigration officers based overseas.
‘Since April 2008 our officers based in France and Belgium have stopped over 30,000 individual attempts by illegal migrants to get into Britain.
‘We are leading this crackdown to show that there is no hiding place for those who try to cheat their way across the border.’
It is estimated that the cost of deporting a person is around £10,000, but this could be much higher if the case goes to a legal aid funded appeal, with the migrant being held in a detention centre for months on end.
Leading think tank, ippr, said it would it would take at least 20 years to find and remove half a million illegal immigrants at a cost of over £5 billion.
Earlier this month the Government was criticised for wasting millions of pounds flying illegal immigrants back to their country in private jets.
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