Illegal immigrant numbers down

A CRACKDOWN by immigration services has dramatically reduced the numbers of illegal immigrants arriving in this country through Felixstowe port. As the latest national figures show Tony Blair's target of halving monthly asylum applications has been met, local figures appear to echo the trend.

A CRACKDOWN by immigration services has dramatically reduced the numbers of illegal immigrants arriving in this country through Felixstowe port.

As the latest national figures show Tony Blair's target of halving monthly asylum applications has been met, local figures appear to echo the trend.

Nationally, there were 4,200 applications in September compared with 8,500 in October last year.

And in Felixstowe, just 17 immigrants arrived from July 1 to November 30 – the lowest figure for many years.


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A spokesman for the immigration service said: "The figures show that we have had just three or four immigrants entering through the port each month. It's a tremendous reduction.

"The number of illegal immigrants entering the UK through Felixstowe port is very small at the moment. The emphasis is on prevention now and shipping companies have really tightened up security on the continental side.

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"That has reduced the numbers to a handful."

Over the years the figures have ebbed and flowed. In a court case earlier this year it was revealed that around 150 people had claimed asylum at Felixstowe in the first three months of 2003 – many of them from Somalia, Zimbabwe, India, China and Iraq.

In 1997 the authorities found 100, but by the end of 1998 another 400 had been discovered, and the following year more than 800 were found.

There was a slight drop in 2000 when the total was just under 700, but no figures have been revealed for the past two years – periods when nationally 71,025 (2001) and 84,130 (2002, a record) claimed asylum.

The reduction in figures during the latter part of this year can, largely, be put down to the introduction of two new pieces of legislation – The Carriers Liability Act, for ship owners, and the Public Liability Act, for drivers of lorries or trucks.

These result in shipping companies and lorry drivers being fined up to £2,000 for each illegal immigrant they are found to have within their vehicles.

The spokesman said: "Immigrants are at the lowest level that I have known for many years.

"It's the result of a combined effort between ourselves, our counterparts in Europe, the Haulage Association and the shipping companies. A lot of work has been going on."

The immigrants that arrived in Felixstowe last month were all from Turkey. Four of them were children.

Figures from Suffolk county council's social services department, which looks after unaccompanied immigrant children, appear to confirmed that the numbers are the lowest they have been for a long time.

In November they dealt with were no unaccompanied children. In October there were four and in September there were two.

He said: "The numbers have been decreasing but it is very difficult to say that this is a definite trend as the numbers usually fluctuate a lot from month to month."

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