MIGRANTS attempting to slip into Britain are exploiting Portsmouth’s under-staffed border checkpoint, a report claims.
An inspection into borders and immigration has shown that the amount of detected activity at Portsmouth's port has risen in the past year – against the overall trend along south coast ports.
This has been attributed to irregular migrants being displaced from northern France, as well as Port managers stating that migrants were quick to change their tactics to avoid detection.
This included moving from one freight vehicle to another to minimise the build-up of carbon dioxide.
Publishing the report, chief inspector of borders and immigration, David Bolt, said: ‘I recognise that Border Force is dealing with many challenges, not just along the south coast but nationally, and that its job is not made any easier by having to prepare for the UK's exit from the EU without clarity as yet about what exactly this will involve.
‘However, it is difficult to escape the impression that Border Force believes it knows best and will make changes only on its own terms and at its own pace.’
Officers in Portsmouth told inspectors that migrants were ‘well aware of Border Force's limited resources’, and would split up and hide in different trailers in the belief that if one was detected the agency would not have the capacity to search the other trailers as thoroughly.
Once such limitation is that Border Force was not able to use X-ray scanners to search for concealed migrants prior to embarkation from France because it was not permitted under French law.
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has praised the hard work of the Border Force staff.
He said: ‘Things like this actually happen all the time.
‘There’s a big push going on at the moment so people are being moved along the French coast.
‘These migrants are exploiting things on both sides of the border though – we have Border Force and security on the other side of the English Channel, so there is a strong protection plan in place.
‘We work very closely with our partner forces on the other side of the Channel to make try and minimise the number of people that attempt to sneak over to Portsmouth.
‘I’ve seen firsthand a group trying to get into a lorry in France – the security staff were onto them in an instant.’
But Cllr Vernon-Jackson also believes that things could get worse once Britain leaves the EU - and fears that Portsmouth could be a targeted entry point.
He explained: ‘The current situation is concerning, but I think it could be much worse.
‘My worry is that after Brexit, France will have less of an obligation to police the border properly and so the work they do will slow down, or stop altogether.
‘There is a real chance that things could get worse for the Border Force team in Portsmouth once we leave the EU – I have never seen as many people trying to get through as there were this summer.’