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Police officers tasked with preventing illegal immigrants entering the UK through the port of Cairnryan, in Dumfries and Galloway have met with MPs to discuss concerns that they are being overstretched.
Since the UK Border Agency removed its staff from the Ferry Terminal in 2010, the number of illegal immigrants trying to enter mainland Britain through the port has risen 136 percent.
The Scotland Office Minister David Mundell has visited Northern Ireland to see first-hand how the UK Border Agency (UKBA) monitors the Common Travel Area. He'll return to Cairnryan by ferry to meet Dumfries & Galloway Police and other stakeholders to discuss the policing of the Galloway ports.
The tour will include a meeting with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Minister of Justice for the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as tours of Belfast City immigration control and a briefing from the team responsible for the oversight of Common Travel Area operations.
In Cairnryan, the Minister will meet interested stakeholders, local politicians and representatives of Dumfries & Galloway Police for a discussion on a recent UKBA report which reviewed working practices in place to help prevent illegal immigration through the port.
Speaking ahead of the visit, David Mundell said:
“The security of our borders is of paramount importance to all of us and I shall be looking closely at the way the arrangements are working on both the Northern Ireland and Scottish sides.
“Over the past 18 months UKBA and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary have worked collaboratively on the policing of Stranraer Ports. Their combined efforts have ensured that a greater number of illegal immigrants have been intercepted in their attempts to travel onto mainland UK.
“The key to resolving this issue is working with the Irish Republic to ensure that it is not as attractive for people to come into their country and through the Common Travel Area into the UK.
"Understandably, the Northern Ireland Executive want to ensure freedom of travel within Ireland as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement and don’t want the crossings to another part of the UK turned into an international border.
"We have to recognise and work with these sensitivities and that why I am going to Belfast ahead of my visit to Cairnryan."