MacAskill Accused of Opening the 'Back Door' to Illegal Immigrants

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Picken Scottish Political Reporter

JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill was yesterday blamed for helping to turn Scotland into a 'back door' for illegal immigrants.

Scores of migrants have been flooding through the Stranraer and Cairnryan ferry terminals after customs staff were axed by the Westminster Government.

But Mr MacAskill has added to the chaos by approving controversial plans to redeploy 14 of the 80 police officers based at Stranraer to Scotland's airports.

Around 20 suspected illegal immigrants have recently been stopped at the Wigtownshire ports, but it is feared many more are getting through because of the cuts.

Foreigners are taking advantage of generous visa rules in the Republic of Ireland, then crossing the border into Northern Ireland before using Scotland as the 'back door' to enter mainland Britain illegally.

The withdrawal of the officers by Home Secretary Theresa May's UK Border Agency (UKBA) has made Stranraer and Cairnryan a 'nexus point' for illegal immigration, according to Dumfries and Galloway's chief constable Patrick Shearer.

He said his hard-pressed officers had even been forced to release illegal immigrants because of a lack of support from the UKBA.

He added: 'We have been evaluating the continued impact of immigration cases on our ports and, as we anticipated, we have, in fact, seen an increase in immigration cases when measured against the same period in 2009-10. The increases we are identifying do not support the UKBA's position that they would be able to address the immigration issues on this route. …