Concerns over the ability of authorities to monitor the UK’s coastline have been raised following incidents of migrants crossing the English Channel from France.
It emerged yesterday that the last of three new patrol vessels for the UK Border Force will not be delivered until the end of 2017.
The removal of Maritime Patrol Capability was a ridiculous and short sighted decisionBrendan O’Hara
The SNP has also attacked the UK government after it revealed coastal surveillance previously carried out for the UK Border Force by RAF Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft was now being handled by civilian law enforcement.
The decision to scrap the UK’s fleet of Nimrod aircraft in 2010 provoked an outcry over the gap in defence capabilities.
A Home Office spokeswoman told the Scotsman airborne surveillance support was being provided by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Meanwhile a spokesman for the NCA would not provide detail of assistance offered to the UK Border Force, but the agency’s predecessor previously tendered for unmanned drones to provide aerial surveillance.
Brendan O’Hara, the SNP defence spokesman at Westminster, said it was “unacceptable and troubling” that the Border Force was relying on the NCA for aerial maritime surveillance.
“The SNP have long argued that the removal of Maritime Patrol Capability was a ridiculous and short sighted decision,” Mr O’Hara said.
“The government must live up to its commitment and deliver on our vital maritime security capability.”
Earlier this week, the former chief inspector of the Border Force, John Vine, said more investment was needed to prevent possible tragedies involving migrants off the UK coastline after 20 migrants were intercepted off Kent.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said the UK government was “procuring additional boats and introducing new powers to make the UK’s coastline even more secure from criminals looking to smuggle guns and drugs or facilitate illegal entry.”