New Border Agency chief's pledge

THE region's new border chief was in Felixstowe this week to see how his officers were protecting the port from illegal immigrants, drugs and dodgy goods.

SUFFOLK: The region's new border chief was in Felixstowe this week to see how his officers were protecting the port from illegal immigrants, drugs and dodgy goods.

Marc Owens is the new man in charge of border control across the central England region, which stretches from the Suffolk coast all the way across to Holyhead in Wales.

Mr Owens was previously the head of strategy for the UK Border Agency.

He oversaw an operational shake-up that has seen officers take on multiple roles in the fight against smuggling and people trafficking and he is now responsible for the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe, along with many other ports and airports.

He said: “The big challenge for us over the coming years is maintaining and hopefully increasing the level of performance at a time when money is going to become increasingly tight and we will need to show value for money for the tax payer.”

He said the changes that had been made to the way officers work would also help to reduce the disruption for legitimate trade coming in and out of Felixstowe in particular, which is the biggest container port in the UK.

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In recent months there have been some significant seizures at Felixstowe, including more than 40 million illegal cigarettes in November and the impounding of more than �1.5 million of counterfeit perfume.

Mr Owens said the changes to the ways of working meant the UK's borders were stronger than ever.

He added: “Our strong new force at the border, with combined customs and immigration powers, is cracking down on the illegal immigrants and smugglers who try and con their way into the UK. The sheer amount of traffic that passes through Felixstowe and Harwich means our dedicated officers face a huge challenge and can never afford to be off their guard.

“However, the tremendous results that they achieve are evidence of the first class job they are doing.”

The UK Border Agency is a single force that works to protect all UK borders, control immigration for the benefit of the country, prevent tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make “quick and fair” decisions on asylum claims.

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