THERE was a significant increase in the number of illegal attempts to get in to the UK through the Essex ports in the past year.

In 2013/14, Border Force workers found 18,000 illegal immigrants trying to get in to the UK from the ports of Calais, Coquelles and Dunkerque. The figure is up from 11,000 in 2012/13.

Earlier this month, a man was found dead in a shipping container, along with 34 other people who survived, at Tilbury Port.

The challenge of dealing with illegal immigration falls to the UK Border Force.

The agency, part of the Home Office, employs about 7,000 people and is responsible for vetting the 200 million people who cross the UK border every year.

In Essex, the officials patrol the ports of DP World, Tilbury and Harwich, as well as Stansted and Southend airports.

As well as physical searches, officers use sniffer dogs, heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes to find people hiding in vehicles and freight.

Everyone trying to get in to the UK needs to satisfy border officers that they meet immigration criteria.

Foreigners must be able to prove they can support themselves for the duration of their trip without benefits or employment.

They are refused entry if they are not who they say they are, or if border officers suspect they plan to outstay their trip.

After the recent expansion of immigrant camps in Calais and northern France, Border Force has strengthened its links with the Belgian and French police on immigration crime and share intelligence.

The agency also takes swift action against anyone caught people smuggling or trafficking.

Last November. a Polish lorry driver who attempted to smuggle four Albanians into the UK hidden inside his vehicle was jailed for six years.

Maciej Janusz Andrzejewski, 35, of no fixed address, had been arrested by officers from the Home Office’s Criminal Investigations Team on July 11 after he had arrived at the Port of Harwich on a ferry from the Hook of Holland and was stopped by Border Force.

Border Force director general, Sir Charles Montgomery, said: “The security of the border is at the heart of everything Border Force does and that extends to both passengers and goods.

“We are constantly seeking to improve our methods of detection.

The Border Force is also responsible from monitoring 50 categories of goods being brought in to the UK.

This includes everything from radioactive and nuclear materials, drugs, firearms and offensive weapons, to counterfeit goods, endangered plant and animal species, rough diamonds and pornography.

Officers intercept drugs and goods smuggled through airports.

They also have specialist cutter and deep rummage teams that prevent smuggling attempts in UK waters. Earlier this month, Border Force officers at Stansted Airport seized counterfeit “Disney” children’s clothing and accessories worth more than £10,000.

Officers discovered 490 dresses and bags carrying images of the popular Disney film, Frozen.

In July, Border Force officers at the Port of Tilbury seized 6,000 litres of Nigerian spirits.

In an attempt to evade excise duty on the alcohol, the smugglers had listed the contents of the containers as foodstuffs.

If the smuggling attempt proved successful it could have cost the Treasury about £68,800 in unpaid duty.

In June, Border Force officers at the Port of Purfleet stopped an attempt to smuggle 3,251,080 cigarettes in to the UK hidden inside water storage heaters.

It would have cost the Treasury nearly £900,000 in unpaid duty.