UK launches new Border Security Command to fight illegal immigration

UK launches new Border Security Command to fight illegal immigration

Shelving controversial Rwanda Plan, new Labour government vows to strengthen Britain’s border security, target smuggling gangs

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Britain announced a new Border Security Command on Sunday to strengthen its border security and “smash the criminal (people) smuggling gangs making millions out of small boat crossings.”

The move, as promised by the Labour Party during its election campaign, came only days after its election victory and after new Home Secretary Yvette Cooper took office.

“Rapid recruitment for an exceptional leader used to working in complex and challenging environments -- for example, at senior levels of policing, intelligence or the military -- will kick off tomorrow (Monday), with the new recruit expected to take up their post in the coming weeks,” a statement from the Home Office said.

The border security commander, who will be appointed by Cooper, will “provide strategic direction to work across agencies, drawing together the work of the National Crime Agency (NCA), intelligence agencies, police, Immigration Enforcement and (the) Border Force, to better protect our borders and go after the smuggling gangs facilitating small boat crossings,” it said.

It said that “early legislation is being prepared to introduce new counter terror style powers and stronger measures to tackle organized immigration crime.”

Cooper has also “commissioned a bespoke investigation from the department and the NCA into the latest routes, methods and tactics used by people smuggling gangs across Europe to inform a major law enforcement drive over the coming months.”

The home secretary will also have further calls this week with European interior ministers and with the director general of Europol to discuss strengthening security cooperation, the statement added.

“Criminal smuggling gangs are making millions out of small boat crossings, undermining our border security and putting lives at risk,” Cooper said.

“We can’t carry on like this. We need to tackle the root of the problem, going after these dangerous criminals and bringing them to justice.”

“The Border Security Command will be a major step change in UK enforcement efforts to tackle organized immigration crime, drawing on substantial resources to work across Europe and beyond to disrupt trafficking networks and to coordinate with prosecutors in Europe to deliver justice.

“Work is underway to bring in a border security commander to lead this work – and we will begin recruitment on additional capacity in the National Crime Agency immediately,” she added.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer said his government would not allow any flights to Rwanda to take asylum seekers from the UK. The controversial Rwanda Plan, which was legalized in the UK by the Conservative government, has been under scrutiny by opposition parties and human rights organizations, and former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had pledged to start the flights this summer if he had won the election.

According to Home Office data, approximately 40,000 people entered the country illegally in 2023.

Nearly 130,000 asylum applications were received between April 15, 2023 and April 14, 2024, and 56,834 people were granted asylum with a grant rate of 61%, the highest annual number of substantive decisions on asylum cases in more than 20 years, according to the Home Office. During the same period, 36,597 applications were rejected.

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