HOME Secretary Theresa May has been warned that organised criminals are exploiting gaps in the UK’s border security after it was revealed that 67,500 small planes and boats enter Britain each year unchecked.
Illegal immigrants are using these vessels to breach Britain’s border controls with the east coast particularly vulnerable, it has been claimed.
It is feared small ports and airports are also being targeted by criminals seeking to smuggle illegal drugs and weapons into the UK.
Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said the Government was “failing to secure our borders”.
He added: “New figures released show 67,500 small planes and boats enter the UK unchecked.
“This is an open doorway into our country which allows criminals to smuggle drugs and weapons into the UK.
“I believe the Government should, at the very least, increase checks on small planes and boats.
“We have seen the Home Office place huge emphasis on staffing at Heathrow and other major airports, but they have botched our border security by allowing our smaller ports and airports to have little or no staffing.
“If the soft underbelly of our border security is not sealed we can expect to see a continual influx of drugs and weapons into Britain.
“This can only be done through giving the UK Border Force the support it needs to monitor and investigate all traffic flowing into the UK.”
Responding to his criticism, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the Government was “improving the systems through which general aviation reports are captured in order to ensure we are tackling non-compliance.
“We are also working through air traffic control to track flights that fail to report and, through improvements to legislation, take action against those who fail to comply with the requirements”.
In December, it was revealed Special Branch officers would be switched from harbours and marinas to London, Birmingham and Manchester, where the threat from extremists is feared to be higher in the wake of the Paris attacks.
But critics said the move would make the coast a soft target for terrorists and criminal gangs.
Last week ex-Border Force worker Alan Dunn estimated in one port at which he worked, as little as one per cent of traffic was checked for smuggled goods and people.
“The east coast is much more open than it was, much more vulnerable,” he told ITV News.