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UK sea borders 'could be left wide open after Brexit'

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UK sea borders 'could be left wide open after Brexit'
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Kelvin Davies
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British borders could be left wide open at sea following Brexit, with reports that the UK Border Force only has two vessels to patrol 12,428 kilometres of coastline.

The low number of patrol vessels, also known as cutters, is in stark contrast to Italy, which has 600 vessels patrolling 7,606 kilometres.

Of the fleet of five seagoing cutters operated by the UK Border Force, one was stationed in the Mediterranean and the other in the Aegean — at the time of an inspection into Border Force operations.

The other three were stationed in British waters, however, only two of those were operational. This third was kept on standby, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration inspection found.

As Brexit looms, UK Border Force could see a decrease in maritime support from EU neighbors, particularly France.

A Home Office spokesperson told Euronews that it had increased the number of coastal patrol vessels this year in response to people attempting to reach the UK illegally.

"We are alert to the risk posed by people attempting to reach the UK illegally via small boats. This year we have increased the number of coastal patrol vessels and, in light of recent events, have stepped up deployments along the South-East coast.”

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said his constituents welcomed the Home Office action of stepping up patrols along the Kent coast but believes more must be done.

“Two cutters for the whole coastline is frankly ridiculous. We need more investment so the whole border is secure,” Elphicke told Euronews.

This week, the UK Border Force caught 55 migrants trying to reach British shores via small boats.

In three separate incidents on Wednesday, 23 migrants, including a four-year-old child, were discovered over the course of 12 hours.

Additonally, a boat stolen from Boulogne, France carrying 17 Iranians, including three children, sailed across the English Channel before being intercepted by the Coastguard and the UK Border Force at the entrance to the port on Tuesday.

Elphicke also told Euronewes the amount of brazen attempts to break into the UK in one week is unprecedented and deeply concerning, showing these crossings are being organised.

“The Home Office needs to work with the French to catch the crooks responsible,” he said.

The spokesperson for the Home Office said the UK will continue to work closely with law enforcement partners both in the UK and overseas to tackle people smuggling at the source.

"Nobody should put their life at risk attempting to smuggle themselves into the UK across the Channel,” the Home Office spokesperson told Euronews.

“Thankfully, this route to the UK remains relatively rare."

Elphicke responded to the UK Home Office by pointing out that the risk people are taking in crossing such a busy shipping route on small vessels, some even with young children on board, shows just how desperate they are.

"We need to act urgently to put a stop to this recent surge,” Elphicke told Euronews.

“That means boosting our borders budget, as well as the number of vessels and skilled officers at the Dover frontline."