Illegal stowaways at port on the rise

NEW government figures today revealed the number of stowaways arriving at Britain's biggest port have risen dramatically again in the past two years.

NEW government figures today revealed the number of illegal immigrants arriving in Felixstowe has risen steeply over the past two years.

In all, 310 have been caught at Britain's biggest port since 2003.

The total was only one less than for Dover, where the highest number of illegals have been detained in the country during the same period.

The figures released by home secretary Jacqui Smith in answer to a House of Commons question by her Conservative shadow, David Davis, show a fluctuating picture for Felixstowe.

No clear reason was given as to why numbers should have risen again last year after a drastic dip in 2005.

Ms Smith said there were 40 illegals found at the port in 2003, 167 in 2004, just four in 2005 and 99 in 2006.

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One Felixstowe port source said: “Illegal immigrants are still coming in regularly, but that would be expected in a port this size. Sometimes you hear about them and sometimes you don't.

“There are ships coming in every day from all over the world and there will always be some stowaways - many of them see the UK as an easy touch and much safer than where they have come from.”

In the late 1990s, there were more than 500 immigrants being found every year on ships arriving at Felixstowe's container terminal, many of them Turkish Kurd refugees fleeing their country and trying to start a new life in Britain.

There were also large numbers of Albanian refugees from the crisis-torn Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. Most were single males aged between 18 and 25, though there were also some families.

Quayside workers were shocked at the desperation of those turning themselves into the human cargo of the high seas and hiding in containers to escape the horrors of their homelands.

On their arrival most declared themselves and sought political asylum.

Elsewhere, there have been 62 illegal immigrants found at Harwich since 2003, but only three in the past two years.

In total, 13,000 have arrived at the country's 36 main ports and airports in the last four years.

The highest number of illegals found at a British airport were discovered at Cardiff, where 694 were detained in 2005.

The Home Office figures show only one illegal immigrant was caught at Stansted Airport since 2003, while 36 were detained at Norwich Airport.

No-one was available to comment from the Immigration Service.

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