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Stopping migrants is the top priority for Customs

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STOPPING migrants arriving on boats from France has overtaken the trafficking of class A drugs as Customs’ highest priority, the JEP has learned.

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And border security has now been tightened in the Island even further after two illegal immigrants from Ukraine were found in Guernsey, it can be revealed.

Steve Le Marquand, head of Customs’ Law Enforcement division, said illegal immigration was elevated to top priority status at the start of this year. In 2016 it was not even in the top three.

And although the priorities for 2018 are not due to be set until January Mr Le Marquand expects illegal immigration to remain at the top of the priority list because of the ‘political and economic’ impact of migrants trying to use Jersey as a stepping stone to the UK. Several vessels carrying migrants headed for the Channel Islands have been intercepted by French authorities on the Normandy coast in the past 18 months.

Three Iranians were caught in Jersey and returned to France in March after arriving at Bonne Nuit on a rib from France.

The JEP has learned the group’s facilitator – who organised their trip to Jersey – has since been convicted in a court in Rennes.

The migration situation hit its peak early last year and led to agencies in Jersey, including Customs, the States police, the Fire and Rescue Service and the Health Department, developing a plan to deal with the sudden arrival of immigrants from Europe.

The situation has subsided, although there have been attempts this year. Mr Le Marquand said his team, and their colleagues in France, must remain vigilant.

He added: ‘We were very concerned about the migration situation from France and that it was going to rise. There were a number of attempts made but fortunately they were intercepted by the French.

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‘The French see it as vitally important the Channel Islands are not seen as easy pickings for these people to get into the UK and that is why they want to ensure this does not turn into a problem – so that is good for us.’

Priority status is set based on a matrix which takes into account the physical, economic, political and legislative impact of a situation in Jersey and the likelihood of it happening.

Last Saturday, two Ukrainians travelling with fake documents were stopped by the Guernsey Border Agency trying to leave the island for the UK. They were returned to Ukraine, via the UK.

Since the incident, security measures have been stepped up in Jersey to ensure the Island was not seen as ‘easy pickings’ for those trying to enter the UK illegally.

Mr Le Marquand explained that all travellers entering the Island are ‘profiled’. If they meet a certain profile, they will be flagged up. Now, all travellers leaving Jersey are subject to the same profiling checks.

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