UKBA - bizarre news from Falmouth

Boreades

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A friend has just alerted me to this story in yesterday's Western Morning News. I quote it in full, because it beggers belief ...

Customs quits last remaining Cornwall outpost and moves to Gatwick

Cornwall is to be "abandoned" to criminal smuggling gangs, it has been claimed, after Customs confirmed that it would close its last remaining outpost in the county next year.

Drug busting operations in the county have been severely curtailed in recent years after a series of cuts robbed Cornwall of its permanent Customs cover. A handful of Customs intelligence officers continue to be based at Falmouth, gathering information on suspect vessels entering Cornish waters.

However, the Western Morning News has learned that the station will be closed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2012. Sources said that the local intelligence officers were being replaced by "three blokes based in Gatwick".

"Despite the clear risks posed by drug smugglers, the UKBA seem content to abandon Cornwall completely," one Customs source said. "They are closing the door on hundreds of years of vital Customs service in Cornwall and at the same time opening the door to all and sundry."

The UKBA confirmed that Falmouth Custom House would close "early next year" and that Cornwall would be covered by "mobile teams" working on an "intelligence-led basis". But the Customs source said the "chain of intelligence" would be "fatally weakened" with officers supposedly covering Cornwall from nearly 300 miles away.

Since 2003, information from Cornwall has been central to the seizure of more than £100 million-worth of drugs from an illegal UK industry worth £8 billion per year. "They are only interested in managing passport queues at large airports and ports," the source said. "They couldn't care less about yacht traffic, despite clear evidence that it is an option used by drug smugglers and other criminal gangs."

Six months ago, the WMN revealed that UKBA targets for drug seizures and contraband goods were being missed. The UKBA – a merger of customs and immigration services – did, however, boast a near-100 per cent record for "queue performance".

The demise of Customs resources in the Westcountry began in 2003, when more than 100 officers were transferred to "mobile teams" to help cover ports and airports in the South East. A small permanent team was later reintroduced in Plymouth. A handful of officers based in Falmouth, who continue to be dispatched around the country, are now facing redundancy or redeployment.

The latest decision to axe intelligence posts in Cornwall flies in the face of criticisms made by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary two years ago. It said the removal of local Customs officers, who "had the opportunity to liaise with the community to garner local intelligence", had meant the "flow of information all but dried up". It added: "The strategy of concentrating large numbers of staff in hubs, supplemented by mobile teams, cannot be shown to be more effective for detection's current mission than providing a wider fixed presence across the UK."

A UKBA spokesman confirmed that Falmouth Custom House would "close early next year". He said the merger between the customs and immigration service had "changed how we keep the border secure against illegal immigration and smuggling". He added: "Given Cornwall's lengthy coastline and large number of small ports and harbours, a static thin blue line of staff based permanently at a single port has been found not to be cost-effective.

"Using mobile teams allows the UK Border Agency officers to go, on an intelligence-led basis, to where the risk is greatest. "We also have a fleet of modern world class vessels and crews who are continually active in the South West Approaches. They regularly challenge small vessels off the more remote locations."

Asking why Customs intelligence posts were being switched from Cornwall to Gatwick, he added: "It is important that we develop with the changing needs of the community we serve. "By centralising our intelligence we are able to focus resources effectively. We will, however, still have UKBA staff on the ground.

"We have established a local immigration team in Devon and Cornwall, which has increased our ability to tackle illegal working on a local level and has given us an even greater opportunity to detain and remove illegal immigrants. "We will also have mobile units so we can focus our resources where we believe there is the greatest risk of immigration and customs abuse."

Brodie Clark, head of border force at the UKBA, told the WMN: "The UKBA is undergoing significant change through modernisation of its working practices, including the integration of customs and immigration controls within one Border Force.

"By doing this we are also reviewing the way we deploy our staff so that we maintain frontline services despite an overall reduction in resources. "Our priority remains to secure the border and to control migration while achieving best value for the taxpayer."

So, on one hand maybe the trivial and annoying harassments of pleasure craft will reduce. But you also have to wonder - what about the serious threats of smuggling - and worse!? Does the UKBA seriously think that terrorists will obligingly use regular commercial transport routes?

Or is the UKBA hoping the Localism Bill will get local teams of people patrolling the UK coastal waters for them?

It's a crazy mixed-up world for sure.

Original source here.
 

VO5

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A friend has just alerted me to this story in yesterday's Western Morning News. I quote it in full, because it beggers belief ...

Customs quits last remaining Cornwall outpost and moves to Gatwick

Cornwall is to be "abandoned" to criminal smuggling gangs, it has been claimed, after Customs confirmed that it would close its last remaining outpost in the county next year.

Drug busting operations in the county have been severely curtailed in recent years after a series of cuts robbed Cornwall of its permanent Customs cover. A handful of Customs intelligence officers continue to be based at Falmouth, gathering information on suspect vessels entering Cornish waters.

However, the Western Morning News has learned that the station will be closed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2012. Sources said that the local intelligence officers were being replaced by "three blokes based in Gatwick".

"Despite the clear risks posed by drug smugglers, the UKBA seem content to abandon Cornwall completely," one Customs source said. "They are closing the door on hundreds of years of vital Customs service in Cornwall and at the same time opening the door to all and sundry."

The UKBA confirmed that Falmouth Custom House would close "early next year" and that Cornwall would be covered by "mobile teams" working on an "intelligence-led basis". But the Customs source said the "chain of intelligence" would be "fatally weakened" with officers supposedly covering Cornwall from nearly 300 miles away.

Since 2003, information from Cornwall has been central to the seizure of more than £100 million-worth of drugs from an illegal UK industry worth £8 billion per year. "They are only interested in managing passport queues at large airports and ports," the source said. "They couldn't care less about yacht traffic, despite clear evidence that it is an option used by drug smugglers and other criminal gangs."

Six months ago, the WMN revealed that UKBA targets for drug seizures and contraband goods were being missed. The UKBA – a merger of customs and immigration services – did, however, boast a near-100 per cent record for "queue performance".

The demise of Customs resources in the Westcountry began in 2003, when more than 100 officers were transferred to "mobile teams" to help cover ports and airports in the South East. A small permanent team was later reintroduced in Plymouth. A handful of officers based in Falmouth, who continue to be dispatched around the country, are now facing redundancy or redeployment.

The latest decision to axe intelligence posts in Cornwall flies in the face of criticisms made by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary two years ago. It said the removal of local Customs officers, who "had the opportunity to liaise with the community to garner local intelligence", had meant the "flow of information all but dried up". It added: "The strategy of concentrating large numbers of staff in hubs, supplemented by mobile teams, cannot be shown to be more effective for detection's current mission than providing a wider fixed presence across the UK."

A UKBA spokesman confirmed that Falmouth Custom House would "close early next year". He said the merger between the customs and immigration service had "changed how we keep the border secure against illegal immigration and smuggling". He added: "Given Cornwall's lengthy coastline and large number of small ports and harbours, a static thin blue line of staff based permanently at a single port has been found not to be cost-effective.

"Using mobile teams allows the UK Border Agency officers to go, on an intelligence-led basis, to where the risk is greatest. "We also have a fleet of modern world class vessels and crews who are continually active in the South West Approaches. They regularly challenge small vessels off the more remote locations."

Asking why Customs intelligence posts were being switched from Cornwall to Gatwick, he added: "It is important that we develop with the changing needs of the community we serve. "By centralising our intelligence we are able to focus resources effectively. We will, however, still have UKBA staff on the ground.

"We have established a local immigration team in Devon and Cornwall, which has increased our ability to tackle illegal working on a local level and has given us an even greater opportunity to detain and remove illegal immigrants. "We will also have mobile units so we can focus our resources where we believe there is the greatest risk of immigration and customs abuse."

Brodie Clark, head of border force at the UKBA, told the WMN: "The UKBA is undergoing significant change through modernisation of its working practices, including the integration of customs and immigration controls within one Border Force.

"By doing this we are also reviewing the way we deploy our staff so that we maintain frontline services despite an overall reduction in resources. "Our priority remains to secure the border and to control migration while achieving best value for the taxpayer."

So, on one hand maybe the trivial and annoying harassments of pleasure craft will reduce. But you also have to wonder - what about the serious threats of smuggling - and worse!? Does the UKBA seriously think that terrorists will obligingly use regular commercial transport routes?

Or is the UKBA hoping the Localism Bill will get local teams of people patrolling the UK coastal waters for them?

It's a crazy mixed-up world for sure.

Original source here.

No it is not crazy. It seems crazy to law abiding people like you and me. But embedded in these arcane decisions may lie a hidden agenda. I am distrustful of decisions taken such as these. They lead to revisions later on that give the exuse to introduce stupid draconian controls. Then everybody suffers. The police forces are not unlike, they have been busy for years engaged in empire building and too busy to effectively deal with crime. Then when they have accumulated all the kit to pester innocent motorists and ordinary civilians they now massage the crime figures to persuade the home office to grant them greater liberties to the detriment of ordinary citizens. But crime still is not effectively reduced. The spiral continues to further the game played, which is essentially also against the public interest, to give you an example in parallel.
 

Boreades

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I wonder if this part ...
The demise of Customs resources in the Westcountry began in 2003, when more than 100 officers were transferred to "mobile teams" to help cover ports and airports in the South East.
...indicates some kind of paranoia or siege-mentality in Central Government in London?
 

mcframe

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No it is not crazy. It seems crazy to law abiding people like you and me. But embedded in these arcane decisions may lie a hidden agenda. I am distrustful of decisions taken such as these.

Maybe, just maybe, the powers-that-be have considered the possibility that more drugs pass through Gatwick in a week than pass through boats landing in Cornwall in a year.
 

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Maybe, just maybe, the powers-that-be have considered the possibility that more drugs pass through Gatwick in a week than pass through boats landing in Cornwall in a year.

Seems fair. Also, how many drugs busts have been intelligence led, rather than a local customs man acting on a hunch. The police are still there and it can't be that hard to ship in a couple of customs men as and when you need them.
 

Searush

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Correct me if I am wrong, but members of this forum have been saying for some years that most boat drug busts are based on intelligence & the boats are "followed" remotely & then picked up in the waters of the destination country. This requires littel or not local presence. Searching random channel traffic is simply a waste of time & money.

Perhaps the powers that be have listened to common sense after all? Perhaps they have finally worked it out for themselves? Who knows, but it seems like commonsense (at last!) to me.
 

snowleopard

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So if I leave from Falmouth for the Caribbean, how do I get the outbound clearance certificate that the customs on the other side will demand?
 

snowleopard

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Ermm, which islands require that then?

When I arrived in Antigua I didn't have a clearance from Guadeloupe because I had been there over Mardi Gras when the customs were closed. It caused a fair bit of grief and at one point they were all for sending me back there to get one!
 

Woodlouse

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So if I leave from Falmouth for the Caribbean, how do I get the outbound clearance certificate that the customs on the other side will demand?

How many people really go from Falmouth direct to the Caribbean? I somehow doubt the Customs men in Falmouth were that over worked with filling and filing clearance papers. Anyway, there'll still have to be a customs chap at the docks for that sort of work anyway I'd have thought.
 

Boreades

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Maybe, just maybe, the powers-that-be have considered the possibility that more drugs pass through Gatwick in a week than pass through boats landing in Cornwall in a year.

Yes, I willingly accept that. What I find hard to accept is how/why the UKBA itself is advertising the "best" ways to smuggle drugs or people into the country. i.e. don't come in through London airports or seaports in the S.East, just get a small boat into a port somewhere else.
 

capnsensible

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When I arrived in Antigua I didn't have a clearance from Guadeloupe because I had been there over Mardi Gras when the customs were closed. It caused a fair bit of grief and at one point they were all for sending me back there to get one!

They are nearly always shut in Deshaise (spelling) and Antigua customs are well used to it in both Jolly Harbour and English. Just be nice, write a little tale in their log and you are always OK. Done it loads!!!
 

snowleopard

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They are nearly always shut in Deshaise (spelling) and Antigua customs are well used to it in both Jolly Harbour and English. Just be nice, write a little tale in their log and you are always OK. Done it loads!!!

I went through the Riviere Salee and tried in vain to clear in/out in the capital. I guess the French islands are a bit like that. When I wanted to clear from Martinique for Dominica the office in St Pierre was shut and I had to take a bus to Fort de France.
 
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