‘Dad’s Army’ of volunteer border guards could patrol region’s coastline under government plans

Sea Palling beach. Picture: Inga Hinsley

Sea Palling beach. Picture: Inga Hinsley - Credit: Inga Hinsley

A 'Dad's Army' of volunteer border guards could patrol the east of England's coastline under plans being considered by the government.

The Home Office confirmed that proposals for Border Force Special Volunteers at small air and sea ports were being discussed.

They would be used to bolster Border Force staffing levels, in a similar vein to police community support officers.

The Border Force carries out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the UK, and reports in the past have raised concerns over 'poor' coverage of dozens of minor harbours and laning places.

The bags of cocaine seized from Norfolk beaches. Picture: NCA

The bags of cocaine seized from Norfolk beaches. Picture: NCA - Credit: Archant

MORE: Migrants attempt to reach Sea Palling from the Netherlands

According to the Mail on Sunday, a trial run will see 50 volunteers patrol the east coast - including Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Southwold and Felixstowe - next year, with plans for the scheme to be expanded to cover Britain's 7,000 miles of coastline.

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Last May, Dutch authorities caught a suspected people-trafficking ring attempting to smuggle migrants from the Netherlands to Sea Palling.

At the time, Suffolk's police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he had concerns the region's coastline was 'wide open' to criminals, describing it as 'vulnerable'.

But Lorne Green, his equivalent in Norfolk, said the county's police force had a close relationship with Border force and was 'well placed to deal with anything that could arise'.

And in February, more than £50m of cocaine was found washed up on beaches in Hopton and Caister.

MORE: East Anglia coast is 'wide open' to smugglers and criminal gangs

A Home Office spokesman said: 'Border Force is currently considering the potential benefits of a Border Force Special Volunteer force, and is in discussions with other law enforcement agencies such as local police to understand how they use volunteers in addition to their existing workforce.'

An inspection by the department published earlier this year of 62 ports, wharves, marinas and jetties on the east coast that were normally unmanned found Border Force officers had not been to 27 of the sites during the 15 months from April 2015 to June 2016.

A spokesman said volunteers would not be used by Immigration Enforcement, but added: 'We're committed to ensuring that Border Force has the resources it needs to keep the UK safe and we will never compromise the security of our borders.'

But Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, speaking to the Mail on Sunday, warned against a 'Dad's Army-type of set-up'.

MORE: More than £50m worth of cocaine has been discovered washed up on beaches in Hopton and Caister

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