'˜Substantial increase' in stowaways trying to board ferries to Portsmouth
There has been a '˜substantial increase' in the number of people trying to illegally board ferries bound for Portsmouth.
Brittany Ferries said 99 detentions were made by staff in the port of Bilbao, Spain, or in Portsmouth or Poole, in the first two weeks of this month.
It comes as figures show there were 1,251 detentions this year until September, a large rise from 436 in the whole of 2016.
The company has called on port security in Spain to be tightened to stop offenders being able to repeatedly try to board ships.
A Brittany spokesman said most of those involved were young, male Albanian nationals who were ‘well-organised’ and repeatedly targeted the port’s perimeter in Bilbao.
Portsmouth City Council leader Councillor Donna Jones said: ‘We are very grateful for the efforts made by Brittany Ferries and Border Force to tighten the security around ports to ensure people are not entering the UK illegally.
‘The council has the responsibility to look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children so any entering the country illegally, without a genuine need for asylum, place an additional burden on our already limited financial resources and put extra pressure on staff providing children’s social care services in the city.’
The city council is currently looking after more than 40 aslym-seeking minors – all male and in their late teens – who arrived in the country accompanied.
There are two Brittany sailings each way each week between Portsmouth and Bilbao, while the company also runs freight services between Bilbao and Poole.
The Brittany spokesman added: ‘As we continue to make clear to the local authorities, Bilbao remains a more attractive target for criminal gangs.
‘In neighbouring Santander those who repeatedly target port facilities are sent to a detention centre near Madrid before being deported.
‘In Bilbao, a port infraction is treated as a civil misdemeanour and offenders are simply released to try again.’
‘Our port staff remain vigilant at all times and our crews’ highest priority is the safety and security of all those aboard our ships, and the reality is that very few individuals make it on to ships.’
Of the 1,252 detentions this year, 68 have taken place once services arrive in the UK.
Last month Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that a major factor in the increase in detainments was the dismantling of the so-called ‘Calais Jungle’, where many foreign nationals had set up camp.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Working with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad we use intelligence to keep our borders secure.
‘We have also invested in new detection technology and are working with port operators to improve the controlling, screening and processing of unauthorised arrivals.’
HOW ARE THE STOWAWAYS MANAGING TO GET ON TO FERRIES?
ACCORDING to Brittany Ferries, most offenders will try to get into a sealed container or trailer before it boards a ship, rather than trying to get on to a ferry indirectly.
People may target routes into Bilbao where drivers stop and they then try to jump into the back.
Curtain-sided vehicles - with tarpaulin sides - are easier to get into and people can slash the covers with a knife to get inside.
The Road Haulage Association has previously advised members not to stop too close to ferry ports in France and Spain.
If stowaways are discovered upon arrival in the UK, gas detectors are usually used to identify high levels of carbon dioxide inside a trailer, indicating that there may be a person inside.