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Suffolk coast labelled a 'soft touch' for smugglers and people traffickers

PUBLISHED: 09:23 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:23 09 November 2019

John Cresswell with The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue boat at Levington Marina  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

John Cresswell with The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue boat at Levington Marina Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Fears over Suffolk's isolated and exposed coastline have led to it being described as a "soft touch" for smugglers.

Felixstowe docks Picture: ARCHANTFelixstowe docks Picture: ARCHANT

John Cresswell, of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS), said the threat of people trafficking in the region is "not a new problem" but he fears more illegal activity.

His comments come after 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex last month.

Police have confirmed that eight women and 10 teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among the victims found in Grays on October 23.

MORE: Essex migrant deaths lorry driver part of a 'global ring', court hears

Mr Cresswell said the east coast has been a target for smugglers for many years.

John Cresswell, Chairman of The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS).  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJohn Cresswell, Chairman of The Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue Service (FVCPRS). Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"It's an ongoing problem and it's not a new problem at all," he said. "It's been highlighted a lot more in recent years but it's been going on for the past 20 years.

"I think most people would agree it [Suffolk's coast] is a bit of a soft touch.

"If you asked people, I think they'd say, 'yes, it goes on', especially some of the fisherman who see things.

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"I would say the Orwell is a particular target, because it's quite a desolate area around there.

"My fear is that it will get worse."

Last year, Border Force officials and Suffolk police seized a vessel and arrested two people following reports people had come off a boat in the Orwell.

In October 2017, three suspected illegal immigrants were detained in Felixstowe after they were seen climbing over a fence at the port.

MORE: Volunteer crews introduce new procedures to deal with people smuggling

Mr Cresswell added that Project Kracken, which encouraged people to report suspicious or unusual behaviour at sea, seems to have diminished in recent years.

"Project Kracken was a big thing at one stage," he said.

"We used to go around and talk to people and deliver leaflets but that all seems to have gone now.

"I suppose there's no money left to promote it, which is a shame because it's probably needed more now than it was then."

Mr Cresswell urged users of Suffolk's beautiful coastline to report any suspicious behaviour to the authorities.

"Whether it's dog walkers or people who work along the coast, because they know it best, anything that is unusual needs to be reported to the police," he added.

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