Experts have warned that Britain is not prepared to deal with a wave of migrants, drugs, and guns coming by sea, enabled by professional smugglers which has already seen a number of attempts to land illegals on the south coast of England by inflatable boat.
Speaking to Independent Television (ITV) in the United Kingdom this morning, former Special Branch officer Chris Hobbs expressed serious concern over the state of readiness of the nation to deal with skilled smugglers. With a number of attempted landings by smugglers in recent weeks, Mr. Hobbs remarked the government was only now playing “catch-up” with defending the nation’s coastline.
He said: “What you’ve got now is the Home Office playing catch-up. Concerns have been raised by the Chief Inspector of Immigration and Borders David Bolt, he is very concerned about it. Only now is the government springing into any sort of action… [the government] really should have been well prepared for this.
“It isn’t just a question of people-smuggling. This is also a question of firearms, a question of drugs, we have been woefully unprepared”.
One area of particular concern addressed by the former senior police officer was the state and quantity of equipment at the disposal of Britain to protect her coasts: “The actual figure is five customs cutters, but only three in operation at the moment. We also have several police marine units, but again they are woefully ill-equipped, not enough people, and they are under threat because of cutbacks. All in all, not a pretty picture along our coastlines”.
Many European nations have significant coast guards with dozens, or even hundreds of craft working to protect human life at sea and the integrity of borders. Britain instead has a variety of agencies including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which has a small number of craft, the Border agency, which presently has two of their five customs cutters deployed to the Mediterranean rather than in home waters, and charities including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution which has no border defence role.
Of the United Kingdom’s approximately 1,000 ports and harbours, only 500 are large enough to warrant the security features such as fences and restricted areas as mandated by the International Ship and Port Facility Security code, leaving half totally open to smugglers. At many UK ports, police and border force visits can be rare.
Mr Hobbs said: “We are in the hands of the people smugglers, the traffickers who organise these trips across. As things become tighter at Calais and Dunkirk, they will look for weak-spots they can look for weak spots to exploit, and that is exactly what they are doing now. This could increase over the summer”.
Former UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson has today slammed the deployment of Britain’s border cutters to Europe, and accused the government of failing to defend Britain’s own borders. She said: “Two out of five of our Border Force cutters are in the Aegean Sea, how can we guard our own coastline? The Greeks have 240 boats to protect their borders yet they cannot do so. They have the highest defence spend in Europe but they are inept.
“Our government has got its priorities wrong. Instead of grandstanding to other EU leaders, Mr Cameron should be showing strength against the swarms of migrants illegally breaking into our country. Repatriate our cutters and enforce our borders, it’s time to protect our own people”.
The warnings of Special Branch officer Chris Hobbs reflect those of John Vine, former chief inspector of Britain’s borders and immigration officers. He expressed concern over Britain’s unprotected and unmonitored small ports, remarking “we just don’t know the extent of this”, when speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning. Mr. Hobbs called on the government to reassess the situation of UK port security and to devote additional resources to the problem.
The French coastguard, which operates over 30 patrol boats has warned Britain the migrant boat deaths seen in the Mediterranean could soon be seen in the English Channel, the busiest stretch of water in the world.
Explaining that people smugglers had now found “a new strategy”, President of the French coastguard, Bernard Barron said: “It’s starting to become a very similar situation to that seen in the Mediterranean and my biggest fear is that the same kind of tragedies we see in Greece or Italy will start to repeat in the Channel… They operate across the length of both the French and Belgian coastlines, between Ostend and into Normandy, finding new positions from where they can send their clients — the migrants — towards England.
“These smugglers — despite being given large sums of money — provide methods of transport for the migrants that are not suitable for crossing a sea like the English Channel. It’s a sea filled with danger, with strong currents, storms and heavy traffic of larger vessels”.
Mr. Barron’s warning came as 18 illegals and two British citizens — possibly themselves smugglers — were rescued from a sinking boat off the coast of Kent. Eyewitness reports suggest those on the boat who called out lifeboats to rescue them were so unfamiliar with the sea they didn’t realise the water around them was so shallow they could just wade ashore.
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