A DORSET MP has said the government "must not take its eye off the ball" when it comes to tackling organised immigration crime on the county’s shores. 

The Echo joined Mid Dorset and North Poole MP Michael Tomlinson for a look at what the police marine unit does in our stretch of the Channel. 

Having been promoted to his new job as illegal migration minister in December, Mr Tomlinson has been tasked with tackling illegal small boat crossings and organised crime. 

There has been much recent media attention on small boat crossings at the 31-mile stretch of sea between Dover and Calais. 

However, Mr Tomlinson has said there is important work going on in Dorset. 

Dorset Echo: Dorset Polcie marine boat

The Echo joined Mr Tomlinson out at sea about half a mile from Swanage in a RIB boat on loan to Dorset Police’s marine unit. 

Equipped with two 350hp outboard engines, the nine-seater open-top boat can reach up to 50kts (about 57mph). 

Speaking after the trip, Mr Tomlinson said it is “hugely impressive” what Dorset Police are capable of to protect our shores. 

He said: “We’ve been seeing the marine units, the capacity and capability of what they can do and actually in the ops room beforehand, seeing the technology that goes into observing everything that’s going on in our waters and the capability that they have now and what they aspire to in the future as well. 

“It’s impressive, but they want to take it further. They’ve come so far in 18 months/two years and they want to push that bit further on as well. I’m all ears.” 

The marine unit works closely with other forces across the south coast and Border Force. 

Dorset Echo: Michael Tomlinson, illegal migration ministerMichael Tomlinson, illegal migration minister (Image: Daily Echo)

Dorset Echo: Dorset Police boat in the English Channel

Mr Tomlinson added: “One of my roles is organised immigration crime and that is clearly a priority. It’s the Prime Minister's priority. That’s not just looking at Calais to Dover but it’s also looking further west. 

“If I look at my constituents here in mid-Dorset and North Poole, [it’s] a massive priority for them as well. 

“The focus at the moment has been on [what is happening in the sea at] Calais to Dover where there is a huge amount of activity with lots of Home Office resources and mine and the Prime Minister’s priorities are there. 

“But we can’t let our eye off the ball when it comes further west, when it comes through the routes such as Cherbourg to Poole as well, a huge amount of activity.

Dorset Echo: Small boat crossing in the Channel on 29/1/23Small boat crossing in the Channel on 29/1/23

“We need to make sure that the people who are here and the tourists that we welcome into our waters in Poole and the wider Dorset region are safe as well.” 

Home Office figures show more than 300 people made the journey last weekend, with 112 recorded in two boats on Saturday and 276 on Sunday in five boats. This takes the provisional total for 2024 to date to 1,057. 

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our priority is to stop the boats, which is why we have taken robust action to crack down on vile people smuggling gangs, deter migrants from making dangerous crossings and, alongside our French counterparts, intercept vessels. 

“This relentless action reduced crossings by 36 per cent last year, which saw similar weather conditions to 2022, and more than 26,000 attempts were prevented.”