Chief Inspector publishes his report on Border Force operations at south coast seaports

This inspection examined Border Force operations at the seaports of Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Plymouth, and the coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas along the south coast.

South Coast


This inspection examined the efficiency and effectiveness of Border Force immigration and customs operations at the seaports of Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Plymouth, and looked at its coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas along the south coast between Dover and Falmouth. Evidence gathering took place between January and April, and my report was sent to the Home Secretary on 20 June 2018. Despite the delay, I have no reason to think that my findings and recommendations are not still valid.

The focus was on Border Force’s strategy, capabilities, and understanding of and overall response to threats to the border, including its collection and use of intelligence and its collaborations with others, and on what changes or improvements had been made since my inspections of General Maritime (GM) in 2016 and east coast seaports in 2017.

I looked again for evidence of displacement of clandestine arrivals from Dover to other ports following the closure of migrant camps and improved security in northern France. The numbers discovered at Portsmouth and Poole had indeed increased, suggesting that irregular migrants looking to enter the UK were now targeting the ferry ports in Normandy and Spain. Meanwhile, efforts by European authorities, encouraged and supported by Border Force, appeared to have reduced the overall numbers successfully boarding UK-bound ferries.

The east coast inspection contrasted the broadly efficient and effective management of fixed immigration control points and freight arrivals at the major seaports with the poor coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas. The south coast inspection again showed the scale of Border Force’s task. It was clear that it had put considerable effort into improving its coverage, through coastal patrols and more field intelligence work, and with some success.

But, this was a “work in progress”, with much more to be done, particularly in freeing up officers to attend GM arrivals, and in effectively harnessing the “eyes and ears” of harbour masters, marina managers, the maritime and pleasure boating communities, and the general public to report unusual and suspicious activities along the south coast.

I made 7 recommendations for improvement, covering resourcing, equipment, the response to threats, clandestine arrivals, customers and stakeholders, GM, and the tracking of recommendations. Most have been “Partially accepted”, although the accompanying responses, including to the “Accepted” recommendations, are heavily caveated.

I recognise that Border Force is dealing with many challenges, not just along the south coast, but nationally, and that its job is not made any easier by having to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU without clarity as yet about what exactly this will involve. However, it is difficult to escape the impression that Border Force believes it knows best and will make changes only on its own terms and at its own pace.

During 2019-20, I had planned to complete my series of seaport and coastline inspections with an inspection of the west coast. The responses to the south coast seaports inspection, and the timescales quoted, suggest that I may need to rethink this.

An inspection of Border Force operations at south coast seaports

The Home Office response to the South Coast Seaports inspection

David Bolt
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

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Branch Memo Death Benefit

Dear Colleagues,

Members will be well aware that sadly we have lost a number of serving members of staff. What members may not be aware of is that if serving members pass away, their families receive a payment from PCS. It is not a huge payment, but can help out at a very difficult time.

This benefit is paid to your nominated next of kin on the PCS membership database, commix. However, we are aware that many members fill their next of kin details in when they join the department, and do not update this information throughout their years of membership. To ensure that your membership benefit payment is not paid to the wrong person, can I please ask members to log into the PCS website membership section and ensure that their address, next of kin, and benefit nominee details are up to date. This is vitally important as PCS are only authorised to make payment to your nominated beneficiary, who may not be the person you want to receive it, may have moved address, or may no longer be with us.

Members may also not be aware that PCS members are entitled to a free will writing service for them and their partners, details of which can be found on the PCS website under member benefits. This can represent a considerable saving.

On a happier note PCS also offer reduced cost conveyancing to help with the cost of house moving along with a range of other legal services.

If you require assistance in registering or logging into your details on the PCS website, please contact your local rep who will be happy to help.

Best regards

Pete Wright
Branch President.


Pay ballot result

Huge strike vote – but anti-union strike laws will prevent action.

PCS members have delivered the highest yes vote and turnout in the history of the union. But undemocratic, anti-union strike laws, implemented last year, will prevent strike action.

Our independent scrutineers’ report, as required in accordance with section 231B of the Trade Union and Labour relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, for the above ballot which closed at noon on Monday 23 July 2018 is as follows:

Number of Individuals who were entitled to vote in the ballot                    142,673

Number of voting papers returned                                                            59,285

Question: Are you prepared to take part in strike action?

Number of spoilt or otherwise invalid voting papers returned                              31

Number of votes cast in the ballot                                                             59,254

Votes cast in the ballot as a % of individuals who were entitled to vote           41.6%

Result of voting

Yes                         50,726                   85.6%

No                            8,528                   14.4%

General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s video message on the ballot result:

The ballot will send a strong message to the government that PCS members want a pay rise. However, the new legal requirements mean that unions not only have to show majority support for a strike, but that 50% of those balloted have voted.

The pay campaign continues

The result is a major disappointment, but the campaign has made our union stronger, with thousands of new members and hundreds of new reps and advocates. You and your colleagues still deserve a pay rise, so the pay campaign will not end here. The PCS national executive committee (NEC) will meet on Tuesday 24 July, and agree the next steps in the pay campaign.

A full statement about the next steps in the campaign will be issued tomorrow (24).