The Home Office has ordered a major overhaul of the Border Force amid growing frustration over the failure to stem the flow of illegal Channel migrants.
The two directors general of Border Force and Immigration Enforcement are to quit their posts and will be replaced by a single supremo tasked with curbing the crossings and overhauling Britain’s “broken” asylum system.
Consultants are also said to have been recruited to investigate a merger of the two Home Office directorates as the Government seeks to regain the initiative after a doubling in illegal migrant crossings this year and the failure to deport any to “safe” third countries.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, will unveil proposed new laws next week that will deny illegal migrants the right to settle in the UK even if they are granted asylum and allow the Government to send asylum seekers abroad for processing.
The moves come as more than 200 migrants on 14 boats reached the UK across the Channel this weekend, making June the busiest month for crossings this year. It brings the total to 5,539, more than double the number at the same point last year.
Boats – which were intercepted in the Channel – are stored at a warehouse facility in Dover, Kent
Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA
It follows criticism of Border Force last month when one of its vessels, HMC Valiant, picked up Channel migrants in French waters and took them to Dover.
Ms Patel ordered an investigation into the incident, saying the British public was “fed up” and “demoralised” by the growing numbers of migrant crossings.
Paul Lincoln, director general of Border Force, told staff last Friday he was moving on after four years in the role to “pursue new opportunities on secondment from the department”. Tyson Hepple, director general of Immigration Enforcement, is taking up a job elsewhere in Whitehall.
A single director general would take over their roles “as part of transformation changes within the Home Office to strengthen our borders and enforcement capabilities and deliver high-quality and efficient services,” said Mr Lincoln.
A source said: “The whole of the Home Office is going through a restructure. As part of that, they are looking at merging Immigration Enforcement and Border Force into one single directorate for borders and enforcement.”
Border Force, which is responsible for frontline border control operations at air, sea and rail ports, was part of a unified immigration agency in the Home Office until 2012 when it was separated out by Theresa May, who was then Home Secretary.
David Wood, a former director general of Immigration Enforcement, said: “It was mad to break it up because it was part of one system. It’s got to interact, otherwise you end up with a disconnected system.
“Border Force are responsible as they arrive on our shores. If they get one and a half miles inland, then Immigration Enforcement is responsible for them. When they are intercepted, they have to hand them over to Asylum and Immigration.
“You end up with barriers between different parts. Each has its own budget, its own priorities and they are not particularly connected up.”
The Border Force union is also up in arms after warning its officers are being overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving at Dover.
The ISU union said it meant Covid tests were not being completed and migrants were being held up to 24 hours in inadequate temporary tents with unsanitary conditions because of delays in handing them over to Immigration Enforcement.
The Home Office has been given four weeks to construct new accommodation to process the migrants or face being reported to the Health and Safety Executive for breaches of regulations.
A Home Office spokesperson said the changes were “to ensure closer alignment between our teams, strengthen our borders and enforcement services and support the implementation of the Home Secretary’s New Plan for Immigration.” He said Border Force and Immigration Enforcement would remain distinct as “brands” and operationally.