Concern at recruitment of 300 new border force officers
THE British Home Office has refused to reveal how many of 300 new border force officers will be based in the north.
A major recruitment drive closed earlier this month and comes as the British government prepares for Brexit.
Successful candidates will be posted to different locations across Britain including major airports, with some also based in Belfast.
But when asked how many of the 300 posts will be in the north, a spokesman for the Home Office said “we would not provide that operational detail”.
While the British and Irish governments have both said they want to maintain a soft border with no visible signs of security, the recruitment of so many border force officers in advance of Brexit has caused some concern.
The new recruits will have a “base location and team but also be part of a mobile team that may be deployed for periods of time to any Home Office location”.
Duties may include “operating primary checkpoints and making decisions on allowing or prohibiting the movement of passengers” as well as detecting prohibited goods.
Applicants must meet qualification or experience criteria, which includes serving as a police officer, in the British armed forces or as a border force officer for two years.
Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, last night said "on the one hand we are told there is going to be no border but on the other they are already recruiting further mobile patrol border officers - some of which it is clear will be based here”.
He said there are fears this could lead to "awful practices of racial profiling, where people are singled out for checks on the basis of things like their skin colour".
He also voiced concern about plans to carry out immigration checks including raids on work places.
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon called for urgent clarification on "how many of these border force officers will be based in Belfast, the type of work they will be carrying out, and what accountability structures will be put in place around what essentially seems like the creation of a new police force here”.
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson also said the recruitment "appears to contradict the British government's stated aim of avoiding a hard border".
"The recruitment of these officers raises the prospect of the British government attempting to turn the north into one big border region in terms of immigration."