'Brexit uncertainty' halts anti-trafficking work in Glasgow

Collaboration between airport and Romanian police paused in February, says Border Force

Anti-human trafficking measures at Glasgow airport have been suspended because of Brexit uncertainty, Border Force staff have told inspectors.

Romanian officers had been travelling to Scotland to deal with “high-risk” flights from their country as part of a collaboration described in an inspection report on Glasgow and Edinburgh airports as “extremely useful”.

The partnership came into effect in 2018 but was suspended in February, with a report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) saying staff believed it was because of uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the EU.

The report said: “Inspectors were told that in February 2019, the arrangement with the Romanian police had been suspended. Staff believed that this was due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit, but the Glasgow SAMS [safeguarding and modern slavery] team was hopeful that it would recommence at some point.”

The revelation comes at a time when security around UK ports is under increased scrutiny after 39 people were found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex. The victims are believed to have been trafficked or smuggled to the UK and to have arrived in Purfleet docks by ferry via Zeebrugge in Belgium. The border inspectorate has previously issued warnings about the porous nature of Britain’s smaller ports.

Romanians last year made up 91% of passengers whose safety was a cause for concern at the airport, but language issues had created problems for UK staff when gathering information.

The report recommended introducing strategies that would test for new or changing threats as well as targeting known “high-risk” flights.

Border Force officers at Glasgow airport identified 121 potential safeguarding cases in 2018, according to the report, which was almost half the 2017 figure of 241.

A large number of low-cost flights from eastern Europe, including from Romania, travel to the city. Romania is considered to be “high-risk” by Border Force, in terms of the need for safeguarding.

Inspectors found officers having problems communicating and sometimes looking to other passengers to translate for them, which was described as “self-defeating” for identifying potential victims.

The introduction of Romanian police tackled the language barrier for staff but also meant they could offer support to passengers identified as vulnerable who needed to contact authorities in Romania. It was also found to have improved the Romanian force’s intelligence and ability to prevent further cases.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on Thursday but Boris Johnson requested an extension to the process, which was granted by the EU to 31 January next year.


Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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