Last Tuesday, 11 October, Dover and Deal Conservative MP, Natalie Elphicke spoke in Parliament to call for the strengthening of border controls for people and goods at the Port of Dover. 

During the debate, the MP called for greater investment in border controls highlighting three  areas of concern – the illegal entry of people, preparation for new checks on legal travellers,  and preventing the importation of illegal dangerous food and goods. 

Small Boats  

Mrs Elphicke highlighted the huge numbers of people entering the country illegally through the small boats crossings, at more than 35,000.  

Out of control

Mrs Elphicke said: “Dover stands as the guardian and gateway to England. Currently – with small boat crossings  at over 35,000 people – that guardian role is being sorely tested. The Home Secretary says this  is out of control – and it is. There is much more to do to protect and secure our sea border.” 

Referencing her meetings with the Home Secretary this week and last week, and her question  to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, she called on the Government  to work with the French to secure joint patrols on French beaches and in the Channel to bring  an end to the Channel crisis.  

Mrs Elphicke said: “The bottom line is that it is only when migrants and people smugglers alike know that they  cannot break into Britain through the channel that this route will be closed down and lives  saved. That will only happen when Britain and France act in concert, jointly patrolling the  French coast and the English channel, and jointly ensuring that illegal entrants are returned to  France.” 

With Winter approaching, the Dover MP raised local concerns about potential loss of life and  the need to avoid another tragedy such as that which occurred last November.  

Mrs Elphicke said: “In my area, people are fearful that there will be further tragic loss of life this winter. Both the  UK and France have a human and moral obligation to act now to save lives. That starts and  ends with ending this crisis for good and the best way to do that is to keep people out of the  dangerous inflatables and safe on land. In order to help genuine refugees, save lives and stop  the criminals, more must be done to tackle this issue and secure the border.” 

Checks for legal travellers 

Mrs Elphicke then addressed Parliament on the challenges facing new checks on legal  travellers. She highlighted the lack of progress on implementation of upcoming changes under  entry-exit checks with Europe. These were also echoed by the Chief Executive of the Port of  Dover in evidence to the Transport Select Committee last week.

The MP warned that failure of properly implement the new rules could result in miles of traffic queues and be  “catastrophic”, as she said: “The impact is not just traffic misery for those in Kent, Dover and those stuck for hours and  hours, even days, in those traffic jams, but it would be catastrophic for UK trade and tourism.” 

Cabinet Office Minister, Brendan Clarke-Smith MP, responding to Mrs Elphicke agreed  getting the new processes for the EU checks was a “priority” for Government and admitted that  progress was not where it needed to be saying: “I am encouraged by recent developments on transition arrangements that have been proposed  by the EU Commission; however, we need to see more progress on implementation and  transition arrangements” 

He also confirmed that the MP and local stakeholders “are making a strong case to improve the  A2.”

Food safety checks – Shocking reports

Mrs Elphicke also raised concerns about food safety checks at the Dover border. The MP drew  attention to two shocking reports from Dover Port Health, from May and the beginning of  October, that set out major concerns on the safety of food being imported from Europe. 

Mrs Elphicke pointed to the May Port Health Report which said: “To not mobilise the facility would be an act of negligence that would significantly increase  the risk of devastating consequences of another animal, health or food safety catastrophe.” 

Further, it said: “we cannot control what is coming through the border and ensure national food safety,  public and animal health and biosecurity are maintained, as we do not have a facility to  complete the escalating number of checks required”. 

Maggoty meat

Natalie told Parliament: “It’s clear that the risk of maggoty meat, meat of unknown origin – often horse or other illegal  meat – rotting meat due to the lack of temperature controls as well as fresh blood dripping onto  other products is a real concern.” 

She went on to say: “The evidence is that the problem with poisonous food and dangerous goods has not gone  away. Indeed, the evidence from the Dover border is that the problem has got worse, if  anything. At the beginning of this month, Dover Port Health Authority undertook Operation  Ouzo, a multi-agency exercise designed to check the adequacy of existing controls at the  border. Over a 24-hour period, from Saturday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime, they searched  some 22 vehicles of Romanian, Moldovan, Ukrainian and Polish origin. In those vehicles,  they discovered raw animal products loosely stored in carrier bags and paper tissue without temperature control, refrigeration or labelled identification. The products were not separated  from ready-to-eat products such as cheese, crisps and cake.” 

African swine fever

The Dover MP also raised the Port Health Authority’s biosecurity concerns particularly in relation to African swine fever. She said:  “Ministers deem the risk of African swine fever to be high, and have even put in special  measures to prohibit certain types of EU pork. However, the illegal pork trade is rife at the  port of Dover—so rife that around 80% of that illegal trade comes through the short straits.  Without adequate checks, there is nothing to stop it. The October Dover port health report  concluded, 
The exercise validated Dover Port Health Authority’s advice to Government that biosecurity at the border is not secure.” 

The Port Health Authority has said that: “Greater mitigation is needed to control the risk of African Swine Fever entering the  UK via illegally imported EU porcine at the Short Straits.” 

The port authority says that it has been left in limbo, without direction or appropriate  engagement. 

Speaking after the debate Natalie Elphicke MP said: “Food safety, biosecurity, and effective border controls for the movement of goods and people  are of fundamental importance. The local border teams, including the port health authority, do an excellent job at protecting us, but they need the right resources and systems so they can  carry on protecting us all. I will be holding further meetings with Government to press for the  facilities, road infrastructure and border controls that are right for Dover, Kent and the UK as  a whole.” 

By Ed

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