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People Smuggling Crackdown at Lochryan

SEX trafficking victims, including one girl aged just 15, were among a soaring number of illegal immigrants stopped at Lochryan's ferry ports.

It has emerged that four women were rescued over the last 18 months as part of a crackdown on people smuggling for the sex trade.

The other three were a 17-year-old Guinean, a 24-year-old Sudanese woman, and a 30-year-old Vietnamese woman.

This comes as the number of immigrants stopped has shot up by 184 per cent in just three years. Detective Inspector Peter Stevenson of the Police Port Unit, said:

"This is the flipside to the immigration issue.

"Some come for a better life but there are also organised criminal gangs who bring people to the country for exploitation.

"There are vast amounts of money to be made in people trafficking and where ever there is money to be made organised crime will follow.

"In recent years we have become more and more concerned about this."

Most illegal immigrants detected at the port end up appearing at Stranraer Sheriff Court charged with identity crimes.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the town's court bill for translating court cases has rocketed by 2450 per cent since 2004.

This reflects increasing numbers of illegal immigrants entering the UK from a wide spectrum of countries. Stranraer Sheriff Court has dealt with migrants from as far afield as Mongolia, Nepal and Bolivia.

The surge in foreign national detentions comes after increased checks were introduced after September 11 and in response to growing numbers of illegal immigrants and organised criminals using the ports as a "back door" into the United Kingdom.

As it is easier to get a visa into the Irish Republic, which has no border controls with Northern Ireland, the ferry crossing is being exploited as a way of entering Britain without checks. But the Home Office has granted police powers to check travellers' documents.

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