Friday, April 25, 2008

Larne -- twinned with Sangatte?

Now, here's a curious thing, for some hours featured as the main item of Scottish news on the BBC national news portal:
Police have caught more than 1,000 people later identified as illegal immigrants at ports in south west Scotland over the past four years.
Numbers of foreign nationals detained at Stranraer and Cairnryan have more than doubled between 2004 and 2007.
Crimes including people trafficking for the sex trade have also been detected.
The numbers cited are:
2004 - 117
2005 - 304
2006 - 327
2007 - 259
Total - 1,007
This would seem to be prompted by a press-release from the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.

The last occasion this was kicked around, to Malcolm's casual notice, was back in June 2003. Peter Duncan (then the only Tory MP in Scotland) put up a parliamentary question about immigration officers attending at Stranraer/Cairnryan.

The formulaic answer was:
1 January 2000–31 December 2000 Immigration Officers attended the Port of Stranraer on 56 occasions during this period (two Officers each time).
1 January 2001–31 December 2001 Immigration Officers attended the Port of Stranraer on 131 occasions during this period (two Officers each time).
1 January 2002–31 December 2002 Immigration Officers attended the Port of Stranraer on 215 occasions during this period (two Officers each time).
Peter Duncan lost his seat, in large part through redistribution, at the last General Election. One might speculate whether his question was one of constituency interest alone, or was a foreshadowing of Michael Howard's "dog-whistle" campaign on immigration. Malcolm would point, in passing, to an incisive post-mortem on Howard's strategy and leadership, courtesy of conservativehome. The present incumbent in that neck of the woods, Russell Brown, seems a down-the-line Labour loyalist, and a bag-carrier for Des Browne.

So, while there may be a historical trend for the SW Scotland short-sea-route becoming a port-of-entry for illegals, there is no major up-tick in recent years. In other words, as a news-item it can be "spun" either way.

The other questions remain:
  • why are the Poliss putting up a statement now?
More to the point,
  • why are the Beeb picking it up, and featuring it on the national news-portal as the single Scottish story of interest -- above the Grangemouth refinery kerfuffle -- on the "Around the UK now" listing?
And, above all,
  • why did the Beeb switch to a more sensational headline? —
Port immigration offences surge
— particularly as the increase from 215 in 2002 to 259 in 2007 (assuming some degree of comparability) hardly qualifies as a "surge". Indeed, if one changes the base-dateline for the comparison, the story falls flat on its face.

As far as Malcolm can see, the native Scottish press have not yet reported on this as a significant topic.

One final thought.

Something has changed.

From 4 April this year, we have the new UK Border Agency:
Border, immigration, customs and visa checks will be united from today in the country's new UK Border Agency, the Home Office has announced.

The new UK Border Agency, established as a shadow agency of the Home Office, will protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and implement quick and fair decisions.
That raises questions about the UK's land border, that with the Irish Republic.

Back last 12th November, the Irish Times did a major piece (and editorial) on the implications of how the higher UK standards of passport control would impact on the common travel area between Ireland and the UK. Since the border with Northern Ireland always has been unenforceable, that suggests UK citizens in Northern Ireland might be subjected to passport control at a point-of-entry into Great Britain.

Ummm ... Sphere: Related Content

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