A force of volunteer guards could help protect remote ports and coastlines across Britain under plans being considered by the UK government.
The Home Office confirmed yesterday that proposals for so-called border force special volunteers at small air and sea ports were being discussed.
The volunteers, similar to special constables used by police forces, would be used to bolster Border Force staffing levels.
However an MP whose constituency covers one of Britain’s largest ports warned against a “Dad’s Army-type set-up”, due to the complexities of border security.
The Border Force carries out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the UK, and reports in the past have raised concerns over “poor” coverage of dozens of minor harbours and landing places.
An inspection by the department published earlier this year of 62 ports, wharves, marinas and jetties that were normally unmanned found Border Force officers had not been to 27 of the sites between April 2015 and June 2016.
The assessment said one of the risks of long periods of non-attendance by Border Force at some locations is “there is no visible deterrent to anyone prepared to risk using these spots to land illegal migrants or contraband”.
It found that in Rosyth, which receives regular ferry traffic from the continent, Border Force staff were routinely absent, spending most of their time at Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports instead.
In a separate report, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson QC, said it was “conceivable” small ports, marinas and landing places might be exploited by returning foreign fighters or other terrorists.
The Home Office said it uses a mix of expert officers, technology, data and intelligence to keep UK borders secure and has stopped tens of thousands of illegal attempts to enter the country.
A spokeswoman said: “Border Force is currently considering the potential benefits of a Border Force Special Volunteer force, and is in discussions with other law enforcement agencies such as local police to understand how they use volunteers in addition to their existing workforce.”
She added that there were no plans to pilot a volunteer scheme for immigration enforcement, and that any Border Force volunteers would be used to “bolster” existing staffing levels.
However, the Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, cautioned: “Border security is a skilled job, which takes many years of training. I would urge great caution before seeking to adopt a model like that used by the police, with special constables. We can’t have a Dad’s Army-type of set-up.”