THE future of the Government s immigration enforcement office in St Ives is in doubt – in spite of plans to double the level of enforcement. Fears that the Home Office s Borders and Immigration Agency office, which opened in 2004 on the outskirts of the t
THE future of the Government's immigration enforcement office in St Ives is in doubt - in spite of plans to double the level of enforcement.
Fears that the Home Office's Borders and Immigration Agency office, which opened in 2004 on the outskirts of the town, faced the axe have been raised by a staff trade union.
John Tincey, national vice-chairman of the Immigration Service Union, told The Hunts Post: "St Ives was one of a number of offices opened as part of a major expansion of immigration control across the UK. Its closure is part of a programme of significant cut-backs by the Border and Immigration Agency, including a ban on recruitment and limitations on weekend working.
"The fact that immigration officers are not available to respond to calls from the police has already strained relations and the closure of the St Ives office may bring them to breaking point."
Twenty-five people, 14 of them ISU members, are based in St Ives, where the complement should be 36, he said.
Rumours began to spread recently that a decision had been made to close the office and as a result a meeting was held where staff were told that a team would be brought in from outside the office to decide its future.
"St Ives has responsibility for immigration offenders in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Julie Spence, Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, and Peter Maddison, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire, have both complained of the pressure that their forces have been put under by the influx of migrants in recent years.
"The closure of St Ives will mean that police in the two counties will be left with no dedicated immigration enforcement cover and will have to seek support from already overwhelmed offices at Bedford and Stansted Airport, which are likely to give priority to their own dedicated police forces."
A Home Office spokesman said the St Ives office provided crucial enforcement capability for Cambridgeshire, north Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire, but no decision on its future had been made.
"Officers based in St Ives arrest illegal workers, respond to police call-outs and support the removal from the UK of those with no right to be here."
Jonathan Lindley, the BIA's strategic director for enforcement, added: "We committed to doubling our enforcement activity by 2010, and we meant it. This year we're spending £200million on enforcement, and in the last nine months of 2007 we carried out over 11,000 operations.
"As part of this commitment we're looking at ways to deploy our resources most effectively and join them up under our new regional structure.