Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Kent County Constabulary


1.  I write on behalf of the Chief Constable of the Kent County Constabulary in response to your enquiry into the physical controls which operate at United Kingdom Ports of Entry. You will be aware that our policing area contains major ports at Folkestone, Dover and the Channel Tunnel which provide substantial routes for tax evasion of alcohol and tobacco in addition to the traffic in illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.


  2.1  As far as illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are concerned, they fall into two broad categories encountered at Dover and the Channel Tunnel who are "facilitated" and lead to arrests being made. These are "clandestine illegal entrants" and "asylum claimants".

  2.2  Clandestine illegal entrants previously wished to avoid detection, preferring to "lose" themselves within the community. They had to pay an agent (who in turn paid the driver of the vehicle) for the service which meant that systems were organised to enable these persons to be discreetly disembarked, once in the United Kingdom. Each "illegal entrant" had to pay a large sum of money to secure this service.

  2.3  In early 1998, a new trend was identified which in numerical terms has spiralled dramatically. Illegal entrants have been secreted in vehicles and trailers by Agents in the Calais area, without the driver's knowledge. The Agents can drastically reduce their fees as no risks are taken by themselves with minimal overheads. This change was brought about by the fact that the illegal entrants, once discovered, made application for asylum and were granted temporary admission into the community whilst their application was considered.

  2.4  To give the reader some idea as to the increase in this category of entrant the following figures are provided:

  Clandestine entrants (at Dover only)
1995—8031996—430 1997—851
1998—3,2131999—8,878 January 2000—1,172

February 2000—1313

  Nearly all this category claim "Asylum" on discovery.

  3.  Undocumented arrivals—Asylum Claimants are people who disembark from the ferry as foot passengers, present themselves at the Immigration Control and apply for asylum.

  3.1  They usually board the ferry travelling in a vehicle and present false documents to the carrying company to circumvent the provisions of the Carriers Liability Act. The passports are then retrieved by the Agent or Facilitator for future re-issue.

  3.2  A further method is to conceal the entrants in a vehicle which is driven onto the ferry in the normal manner. Once safely at sea, the people decamp from the vehicle, again disembarking as foot passengers on the arrival at Dover where asylum is claimed.

  3.3  Figures for undocumented arrivals (Dover only):

  3.4  The Facilitation Support Unit, based at Dover is jointly staffed by police and Immigration Officers. It is tasked with investigating incidents where a facilitation is identified. It necessarily follows that there are two types of facilitation:

    (i)  facilitation of illegal entrants and

    (ii)  facilitation of asylum claimants.

    The amendment of Section 25(1) of the Immigration Act 1971 introduced the "gain" element into these offences.

  3.5  In 1998, 24 incidents occurred at Dover where a specific facilitation was identified in 1999. This rose to 134 with 315 investigations being launched.

  4.  Economic migration will continue with the disparity between the wealth of nations. There can be little real expectation of a reversal of current trends.

  4.1  Facilitation is a lucrative trade with latest intelligence suggesting that £2,200 is payable in advance for illegal passage from France to the United Kingdom.

  4.2  Efforts devoted to maintaining physical controls at Ports must be proportionate to the level of threat imposed by the established links between Organised Crime (including tax evasion), drug trafficking and the smuggling of illegal entrants and asylum seekers.

  4.3  Migration on the scale now being encountered within the county exacerbates inter-ethnic tensions and xenophobia. There has been a vicious murder, large scale disturbances and political activity by far-right groups, reported in sensational fashion by local and national media.

  4.4  The eastern land border and Mediterranean Sea are difficult to police. The "Fortress Europe" approach, coupled with free movement within Schengen States makes the proposition of dismantling our controls an unattractive one. At present our air and sea ports limit entry points which assist efficient policing. There being no identity card system in the United Kingdom, unlike other member states, it is of paramount importance that control is maintained at the port of entry.

  5.1  Ferry companies do not have any form of CCTV/video recording facilities on car decks. Were this a mandatory requirement, it would be a sound preventative measure and be far easier to identify those involved in facilitation, their vehicles, and enhance the chances of a successful prosecution. This would add to measures such as CCTV on the land side and most importantly the Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) System installed at Cheriton, Coquelles and Dover Eastern Docks.

  5.2  The latest initiative to stem the tide of illegal entrants to the United Kingdom is the power to impose civil liabilities on the owners of vehicles found to contain such persons. The main aspiration behind this legislation is one of prevention and is fully supported. The practical and logistical difficulties that ensue must however be highlighted.

  5.3  One of the difficult areas in this regard is the Coquelles side of the Channel Tunnel. Here every freight vehicle is checked on entering the British Control Zone by Eurotunnel employees. Recently several instances have occurred whereby the immigrants have smoked and even cooked meals in the rear of vehicles. The implications do not need further elaboration as to the risks of a major fire whilst underground. Part of the legislation allows the seizure of the vehicle and contents—but how can this be achieved in France where despite numerous "offending" lorries, there is no facility to store them and the "offending" driver (providing he had no guilty knowledge—and most do not) is unable to travel back via the tunnel as planned. When discussing the civil liability legislation the problems at our "port in France" should be remembered.

  5.4  Comment upon the role of the Immigration Service will be made later but the police have some doubts as to whether they have sufficient resources to deal with the powers granted by this legislation and have given little thought to the seizure of vehicles once they have left the port environment. If a vehicle were to be discovered containing immigrants in the Surrey countryside would the Immigration Service be in a position to respond to deal with the occupants, let alone seizing the lorry and load? Our view within Kent is that the police are content to deal with the immigrants in these circumstances, detaining them until they can be processed. It is not our function to deal with the removal and storage of the vehicle under the civil liability opportunities.

  6.1  The Asylum and Immigration Act 1999 has provision which removes the ability to prosecute illegal entrants and asylum seekers found in possession of stolen or forged identity documents. The Police, Crown Prosecution Service, UNHCR, the Law Society and others have been working together to address this provision. The danger from the Police viewpoint is the unwillingness to prosecute in every case. The legislation clearly states that the section applies to those carrying false documents who have come directly to the United Kingdom from the country where they are under threat. This would exclude of course, every entrant travelling via the Kent Ports. The current negotiations would appear, despite police advice, to suggest that to those who the statutory defence is not available, it is "unlikely to be in the public interest" to prosecute. In our view, having already alluded to the importance of false documentation in the facilitation process, this aspiration gives organised criminals licence to print money.

  7.1  Vast amounts of money are now being made by those involved in tax evasion. A joint Police, Benefits Agency and Her Majesty's Customs & Excise Unit exists at Dover Port which deals exclusively with bootleggers. To date over 27,000 nominals have been created of those targets smuggling tobacco and alcohol into the United Kingdom on a grand scale.

  7.2  It should be clearly understood that these people are involved in organised crime with some organisers causing over 40 trips per day being made by their "runners". So huge are the profits that the following has occurred:

    —  Organised crime families and networks have abandoned drugs, firearms and vice as their main commodities and have switched to bootlegging alcohol and tobacco. With their intricate networks already in existence, they have moved from Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and other large conurbation's into East Kent bringing with them all the difficulties which attach themselves to this level of criminality.

    —  Local criminals in Kent, many of the travelling community, have become wealthy and are now capable of forming powerful criminal organisations.

  Despite a good working relationship between the Police, HMC&E and like colleagues in France and Belgium, we are having trouble in combating this criminality and the social problems it brings. There is an increasing amount of violence portrayed in the coastal towns where "turf wars" have developed between different gangs and a recent murder in Calais was involving rural bootleggers.

  8.1  At present the frontier controls are maintained by three agencies, Police Special Branch, HM Customs & Excise and HM Immigration Service. Each has its own area of responsibility. These agencies are supplemented by others, eg Port of Dover Police. Kent Police Officers working under contract to Eurotunnel and private security companies.

  8.2  Two of the main agencies, HM Customs & Excise (HMC&E) and HM Immigration Services (HMIS) are civil servants and have various roles within their area of responsibility as well as law enforcement. HM Customs & Excise collect revenue and process legally imported goods. HM Immigration Services process legitimate application to visit and stay within the United Kingdom. Both also have law enforcement roles, HM Customs & Excise dealing with the illegal importation of a whole variety of prohibited articles and excise goods. HM Immigration Services with illegal immigrants and persons facilitating them. This dual role causes a number of problems including ability of staff to take on the law enforcement side of their business, training issues, conflict as to deal with an issue criminally or use civil powers (that tend to be easier), resourcing and deployment of staff, as well as a host of others. HM Customs & Excise also have this dual role working inland, however, that is another issue.

  8.3  This state of affairs has occurred over the last few hundred years and needs to be reviewed. We should not be fighting the organised criminal of the 21st Century with the tools of the 19th Century. One option would be to put all the law enforcement responsibilities under one agency, a frontier police service, leaving the non-law enforcement roles with the existing agencies. Recruitment would initially need to be from existing personnel from those agencies who wished to, and had the ability to, work in law enforcement. There would also be a need to have conditions of service more in line with the Police Service than the Civil Service in order to give the necessary flexibility and status required. Obviously there are other concerns that would need addressing (eg jurisdiction away from points of entry etc.). This National Frontier Police would be a sister organisation to the National Crime Squad having its own Director General and contain a uniform policing element to check travel documents and search vehicles in appropriate circumstances. This organisation would include a detective capability to deal with prevention of terrorism matters, surveillance, intelligence gathering and dealing with facilitation offences.

  8.4  Further benefits of such a force would be economies of scale with an end to the duplication of function, equipment and a raft of different IT systems. There would be enhanced intelligence collection and dissemination leading to improved quality of investigation. There would be improved opportunities for the use of technology:

    —  Passport readers linked directly to the Police National Computer—criminal names index;

    —  Increased use of fingerprinting at ports with rapid and accurate identity confirmation via electronic systems (NAFIS and LIVESCAN);

    —  Improved use of ANPR imaging with the prospect of national networking.

    This option could also create a "one stop shop" for the benefit of national and European agencies and ensure a smoother integration with Europol, Schengen etc.

  I hope these comments are of use and if you considered it appropriate, I would be happy to encourage a visit from the Committee to examine the operations to combat illegal immigration and tax evasion at Dover Port. A briefing and display of ANPR technology at the Channel Tunnel might also be of benefit.

P Philpot

Detective Chief Superintendent

28 March 2000

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