New maritime enforcement powers come into force today, 31 May, which will allow Border Force officers to stop, board, divert and detain vessels and arrest anyone they suspect has broken immigration law.

The UK and French governments have combined to improve security, collaborate on returns and deter migrants from making the perilous journey across the Channel.

In addition, the Immigration Minister will meet with his Dutch and Belgian counterparts next month to continue discussions on their joint commitment to strengthen port security and to tackle organised crime.

The additional measures aim to complement ongoing joint work already undertaken to address the situation in Northern France.

James Brokenshire, Immigration Minister said: ‘Our investments and improvements over the past six years have left us with one of the most secure borders in the world. But we know we must go further and continue to adapt and react to the challenges we face.

‘That’s why we will be establishing a series of operational hubs, procuring additional boats and introducing new powers to make the UK’s coastline even more secure from criminals looking to smuggle guns and drugs or facilitate illegal entry into the country.’

The stronger maritime powers, which form one part of the wide-ranging Immigration Act, are intended to combat three immigration offences in the territorial waters of the UK:

  • assisting unlawful immigration
  • assisting an asylum seeker to arrive in the UK
  • assisting entry to the UK in breach of a deportation or exclusion order

Patrol vessels will also be introduced, helping to intercept attempts to smuggle dangerous weapons, drugs and migrants into the country.

The first batch will be in place in the coming months, with all of the vessels operational by the end of next year. The vessels will add to the protection already offered by the Border Force cutters and Royal Navy vessels which patrol the UK coastline.

Border Force vessel

Border Force vessel

Three Border Force hubs

In addition, Border Force will set up three maritime co-ordination hubs in Cornwall, the Thames Estuary and the Humber over summer, committed to tackling a range of threats on the UK coastline.

These hubs will see Border Force building greater partnership working with law enforcement and maritime partners, improving intelligence and creating a more flexible response team to address the threats identified. The hubs will also enable Border Force to increase its presence at smaller ports and to deploy officers quickly across the coastline where they are required.

Border Force will also use £31million announced in the budget in March to crack down on illegal tobacco smuggling. This will see 150 additional Border Force officers deployed over the next four years and will help to reduce the tax revenue lost to the UK as a result of the crimes.

Coastguard helicopter

Suspected migrant incident off Dymchurch, Kent

On Saturday night, the UK Coastguard coordinated an incident off Dymchurch to rescue the occupants of a rigid hulled inflatable boat (rhib) overnight.

A call was received at 11.40pm yesterday (28th) requesting assistance to the rhib, which was taking on water.

The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lydd, RNLI lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone and coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone were sent.

The rhib, with 19 people on board, was located at 2.00am and the incident handed over to UK Border Force.