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21 Mar

Border Security

Martyn Underhill, Dorset PCC, renews calls for a full security review of Britain’s Ports

“Unless you act now, the effects on this country could be massive and catastrophic.” That’s my message, as I demand that the Home Secretary improve security at both large and small maritime ports across the UK.

A review by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which was commissioned a year ago and published this week, reveals a chaotic scenario with only 3 Border Force cutters defending our shores, an aerial capability that stops in 2 weeks, with no forward contract or plan, and a team of maritime Border Force staff that received grading’s of “poor” in 26 out of 27 areas concerning knowledge of threats and risks facing the UK. The Inspection reveals clear confusion and lack of direction as to tasking of resources, and the collection of outcomes.

The Inspection also found that there was a significant gap between the information available to people arriving via sea ports versus those arriving by air.  The lack of a risk assessment tool for maritime security arrivals also put the Border Force at a further disadvantage.

In the past week, we have established three things. Firstly, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Paris atrocity ringleader, came into the UK through our most secure port, Dover, unchallenged, despite being subject of a Belgian arrest warrant. Secondly, Border Force whistle-blowers tell us the system is failing in maritime ports, and thirdly, and most importantly, an inspection of General Aviation and General Maritime was published last Thursday, the same day I wrote to the Home Secretary. This inspection reveals clear gaps in capability and competence.

I remain convinced our country is seriously exposed in maritime port security, and I have formally called on the Home Secretary to take urgent action, and take it now.

The Home Secretary is responsible for the security of our ports, this situation is unacceptable, and significantly, my last letter, highlighting the same issues in early December, remains unanswered. We need an urgent review of staffing, strategy and funding, before we suffer a catastrophic attack.

In December, I wrote to the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May MP and the Head of Counter Terrorism, Mark Rowley, to seek assurances that port security arrangements would be reviewed in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the Government’s decision to intervene in Syria.  I have also written to all Dorset MPs, stating the importance of lobbying Government over existing security arrangements at what the Commissioner calls ‘porous ports’, which Ibelieve could leave the county, and the South West coast, vulnerable alongside proposed changes to Special Branch staffing in the South West.

In light of this week’s events, I have written a second letter (available here) in which I formally calls for an urgent review of maritime port security.

MP Christopher Chope also agrees with this view – see here

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