It has been revealed that all Dover's 24 immigration officer posts will be slashed – despite the team being responsible for almost 40 per cent of all removals in Kent last year. In a bitter second blow, proposals are also being made to shut down the 60-bed detention centre based at the port. The facility is used to detain offenders before deportation and to hold immigrants awaiting interview.
Furious UKBA officers have launched a campaign against the cuts, which will save the agency more than £1 million a year. Under the proposal, two chief immigration officers will also be chopped, taking the number to five, and assistant officers will decrease from 23 to 21. Further cuts in Folkestone take the job losses to 30.
Sue Kendal, branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, slammed the decision: "Dover is losing its entire immigration officer team and we are in danger of reverting to the bad old days of mass influxes. We risk leaving the door open for a free-for-all, including people who want to harm the UK.
"The Government talks tough but in reality it is cutting front-line officers." Mrs Kendal said relying on assistant officers was a mistake: "Immigration officers do what we call 'challenging interviews', meaning they can challenge the answers given. "This is a crucial stage but soon it will have gone.
"Assistant immigration officers have far less powers and can't do this, but of course they're much cheaper to employ. They also won't be operating for 24-hours-a-day anymore. "Kent is the UK's frontline for immigration but some posts are being moved to Croydon, which is hardly a hotbed of illegal entry activity."
A spokesman for UKBA said: "We are currently consulting with both unions and staff over the planned restructure of our Kent immigration team. "As a result of the restructure, it is anticipated there will be fewer full-time equivalent positions in Kent, with some of these positions transferring to Sussex.
"It is not proposed the restructure will result in compulsory job losses." All remaining staff will have to reapply for their jobs. UKBA workers are planning to distribute leaflets, circulate a petition around Dover and Folkestone town centres, and hold a demonstration.
I wonder how Phil Woolas can defend this?