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Terror security lapse revealed

PUBLISHED: 23:57 06 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:46 02 March 2010

TERRORISTS trying to sneak into Britain today could simply walk off ships in Ipswich and Felixstowe – and straight into the country.

Lack of passport control has meant that for years, people could arrive on vessels, leave the ships as bona fide seamen do, wander off the ports if they wished, and start a new life as an illegal immigrant.

TERRORISTS trying to sneak into Britain today could simply walk off ships in Ipswich and Felixstowe - and straight into the country.

Lack of passport control has meant that for years, people could arrive on vessels, leave the ships as bona fide seamen do, wander off the ports if they wished, and start a new life as an illegal immigrant.

Fears that sleepy Suffolk could be a potential base for terrorists has been fuelled by the arrest of two Ipswich men by anti-terrorist police, as revealed in later editions of the Evening Star yesterday.

The men, aged 38 and 39, are being held at a central London police station under the 2000 Terrorism Act as part of an investigation into false documents.

Suffolk, which has suffered problems with stowaways in recent years, has good and quick road access to London and the Midlands, and people could easily merge into the community unnoticed.

But while concerns have been raised about easy access at Suffolk's ports, officials have stressed the situation is about to change dramatically - with millions being spent to ensure that in future no-one gets in or out without ID.

One Felixstowe portworker said: "There hasn't been any passport control - men leave the ships to go to the Seafarers' Centre and there is a gate in Carr Road where they can just walk out.

"That gate is open and unguarded 18 hours a day and anyone can walk in and out. We see men from ships going out and walking up to the shops in Felixstowe and then coming back later.

"No-one would know if they didn't return if they were a stowaway sneaking into the country."

The Evening Star revealed last year that at Ipswich port, illegal immigrants coming off ships were being given directions to London so they could make their claim for asylum.

No-one knew whether the refugees were arriving in the capital to see officials - or disappearing into Britain, meeting friends and relatives.

Experts though believe almost all of the stowaways arriving at ports are people genuinely seeking a new life in Britain after a hazardous trip secreted aboard container ships, arriving with little except the clothes on their backs.

Highly-trained terrorists would probably arrive openly by plane or passenger ferry, travelling on false passports and ID documents supplied by their leaders.

Security at Ipswich has already been improved thanks to scanning devices examining cargo before it leaves Europe for Suffolk.

At Felixstowe, port officials said the numbers of illegal immigrants found and detained had dropped dramatically over the past few years.

This year there have been 46 - and with security improvements at the port, on vessels and at other ports, expect that figure to drop further in future.

N Do you know anything about the suspected terrorist arrests in Suffolk? Contact the Star newsdesk on 01473 324789 or email starnew@eveningstar.co.uk.


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