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Who guards the UK's borders?

25 July 07 12:38 GMT

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is planning a new border police for Britain. The Conservatives had previously proposed a border force in 2005. What do we know about the proposals - and who does this job now?

THE PROPOSED NEW SYSTEM

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that the UK will soon have a single unified border police force.

The force, which will work at ports of entry, will comprise officers from HM Revenue and Customs, the Border and Immigration Agency and staff from UK Visas, the last two being arms of the Home Office.

In October 2007 the Cabinet Secretary will report to the prime minister on how to create the force.

However, ahead of those more detailed plans, government staff meeting people entering the UK at sea and airports will start wearing a uniform as a symbolic move to a visible presence.

POLICE

Several parts of the police are involved with border control.

There are seven ports in England and Wales with their own port police: Bristol, Tees and Hartlepool, Dover, Felixstowe, Falmouth, Liverpool, Tilbury.

Ports police are in the port 24 hours a day and take care of criminality and security aspects of the ports.

Special branch officers from local forces attend ports with passenger ferries and will assist the ports police with any arrests.

They are also responsible for acting on intelligence connected with terrorism.

Outside of the major ports the coastline is protected by local police forces.

REVENUE AND CUSTOMS

HM Revenue and Customs has officers based at all points of entry into the UK.

There are also mobile teams and fast boats guarding the coastline away from the major ports during the day and at night.

They are charged with preventing banned goods - including firearms, drugs and child pornography - from entering the country.

They have sniffer dogs trained to find drugs, large sums of money, tobacco, meat and meat products, firearms and ammunition, hidden inside vehicles, containers, luggage and on people.

IMMIGRATION OFFICERS

The Borders and Immigration Agency is responsible for monitoring who is coming in and out of the country.

Its officers are charged with stopping illegal and clandestine immigration - to spot people travelling on forged passports, or people without a correct visa.

All immigration officers at ports are trained in forgery detection techniques.

There are also immigration officers based in France and Belgium.

COASTGUARDS

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has no crime-fighting remit.

Instead it deals with shipping matters such as inspection and registration of ships, rescue operations and dealing with pollution and spillages.

For this end, the MCA boasts its own fleet of helicopters and tugs, as well as being able to call on the services of RNLI lifeboats and RAF helicopters where necessary.

The agency uses 999 services, maritime radio and automated distress alerting equipment to keep informed.

TRANSPORT SECURITY DIRECTORATE

As part of the Department for Transport, the Transport Security Directorate (Transec) is responsible for ensuring security measures at seaports and airports are being implemented properly.

For example, Transec inspectors will visit an airport, sometimes unannounced, and check that all passengers' luggage is being screened properly.

Transec also advises ministers on transport security policy.

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