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Home Secretary launches new UK border agency

LONDON, April 3 (KUNA) -- The new UK Border Agency (UKBA) was officially launched by Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith Thursday.
Smith was inspecting customs and immigrations operations at a London airport, after a number of agencies merged to create the new body, the Home Office said.
The UKBA's 25,000 staff, based in 135 countries, were previously working in the Border and Immigration Agency, Revenue and Customs, and UK Visas.
The Home Secretary was also unveiling a new logo for the agency, which will work to combat smuggling, immigration crime, and border tax fraud.
However, the main opposition conservatives have criticised the government for failing to include police in the newly merged organisation.
They said a conservative government would create a fully-merged border force, including police, to improve security.
A Home Office spokesman said "The new agency will be the eyes and ears of the police at the border.
"It is committed to working with the police to improve, strengthen, and better co-ordinate the security arrangements at ports and airports," he added.
The spokesman pointed out that workers in UKBA will have a wide range of powers to board and search vehicles, aircraft and trains, and to enter premises, seize goods, and detain suspects.
For his part, conservative Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said "This is simply the same porous arrangements which have failed to secure our borders, with a new name." "In contrast, we would establish a dedicated UK border force with proper police powers to secure our borders and pursue crime, from human trafficking to drug smuggling." Smith said the new force would enjoy "a whole range of police-like powers" and would work "extremely closely" with the officers stationed at borders.
"It will be able to strengthen protection of our borders, it will have tough customs, immigration and police-like powers." "I think that will mean it's better equipped than ever to guard our ports and airports and to protect the country from illegal immigration, vice, crime, and terrorism," the Home Secretary concluded.(end) he.wsa KUNA 031251 Apr 08NNNN