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The UK Border Force – job for life, or poisoned chalice?

Anyone who has ever travelled into the UK from overseas, be it for holidays or business, using air, sea, or land, will have seen the UK Border Force, tasked with protecting the UK from threats of terrorism, smuggling, fraud, organised crime, human trafficking, and illegal trade of items such as narcotics and endangered animals.

The key duties of UK Border Force officers include checking the passports and travel documents of all passengers arriving in the UK for immigration control purposes and to detect and intercept prohibited goods, questioning passengers about their reasons for visiting the UK and plans while they’re in the country. They are there to enforce rules and regulations, sometimes by removing illegal goods or arranging for illegal immigrants to be detained.

And, even if you have never left or entered the UK, you will have probably seen the tasks faced by the UK Border Force on television documentaries, following their every move in forensic detail.

Whether it’s in real life, or on the small screen, the UK Border Force appears to have it all for those who are looking for an exciting career. And, with ongoing high-profile news about immigrants wishing to enter the UK because of ongoing geopolitical pressures, it would appear there will be plenty to keep UK Border Force Officers occupied for many years to come.

All in all, it seems to be a promising career-choice for anyone who is looking for a stable, long-term career in a position that seemingly guarantees excitement, job-satisfaction and where two days are never the same. However, is this really the case?

Accusations of underfunding

Border Force officers are employed by the Border Force, which is part of the Home Office. They work at the 140 ports and airports across the UK and overseas. Officers also work at general aviation ports, postal depots, and international rail networks. This includes the Eurostar from Brussels and Paris to St Pancras International, as well as the Eurotunnel from Coquelles to Cheriton.

That’s a lot of ground to cover – so it would appear there will be a demand for staff.

However, recent headlines have not been promising. The Daily Express newspaper recently reported how spending on enforcing illegal immigration laws has slumped by £40million in two years, even though the issue of illegal immigration continues to heap pressure on the Home Office.

Indeed, the number of staff devoted to policing the problem fell from 5,121 in 2018/19 to 4,855 in 2020, according to a study by Migration Watch UK.

Migration Watch says slashing resources “is concerning given that it forms a major part of the Government’s new plan to tackle problems such as absconding and increases the removals of those who may pose a public risk”. Chairman Alp Mehmet said: “These figures help to underline how skewed the Government’s priorities have become.

“Even as illegal entries rose year to year, there has been a drop in spending and staffing numbers for the very department tasked with enforcing the law.”

Such assertions would appear to be supported by several high-profile news reports, all of which add evidence that the department is being woefully underfunded. A recent report on the BBC News website states how Heathrow Airport has criticised the Border Force after passengers faced “unacceptable queuing times”.

A Heathrow spokesman apologised for the delays but blamed the Border Force for not providing enough staff at immigration. However, The Home Office said that the Border Force was working closely with Heathrow Airport and its airlines and was committed to ensuring passengers had “a safe and hassle-free journey”.

Such responses have done little, however, to stop comments from high-profile columnists, such as Janet Street-Porter who gives her forthright opinions on the matter in her regular Daily Mail column.

There have even been reports that technology is also causing a headache for the Border Force. Recently, news reports explained how an IT system failure blighted the functionality of the UK Border Force’s electronic passport gates at airports across the UK, adding further pressure to the alleged thinly stretched front line.

The Home Office’s Stance

There will be criticism of the Home Office.

You could even say this will be natural in the current climate. It is a major government department, tasked with protecting the UK in the middle of ongoing geographical tensions which are making more and more people desperate to come here.

A Home Office spokesman is reported as saying: “We are using every tool at our disposal.

“Our enforcement officers continue to work day and night to remove those with no right to be here, including dangerous foreign criminals. This is complex. Our New Plan for Immigration provides the only long-term solution to fix the broken system.”

See for yourself

If you are still interested in a career with the UK Border Force – which, indeed, is certain to be a rewarding, if challenging role, you can find out more details, including a full profile about the career, on the Prospects website, or visit the UK government’s website.

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