News story

New powers to strengthen coastal security

New powers to help target smugglers and prevent illegal entry come into force.

Britain’s maritime security will be bolstered, as new powers to help target smugglers and prevent illegal entry come into force, and details of further investment in maritime patrol capability are announced.

James Brokenshire, Immigration Minister said:

Our investments and improvements over the past 6 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 additional measures will complement ongoing joint work already undertaken to address the situation in Northern France. 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.

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

The stronger maritime powers, which form one part of the wide-ranging Immigration Act, are intended to combat 3 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.

In addition, Border Force will set up 3 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 £31 million 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 4 years and will help to reduce the tax revenue lost to the UK as a result of the crimes.