The “rise in bad and threatening behavior in recent weeks” led to the suspension of all physical Brexit checks at the ports of Belfast and Lorne.
This comes after council staff at Lorne Harbor were exempted from conducting fully regulated animal-based food tests amid concerns for their safety and well-being.
A spokesman for Northern Ireland’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (TERA) said the decision was taken following discussions with the BSNI (Northern Ireland Police Service).
“The situation will be reviewed and in the meantime full documentary document tests will be carried out as usual,” they said.
Twelve Central and Eastern Antrim Borough Council staff assisting Dera and UK border guards with checks at the port went into effect Monday and were relieved of their duties.
The decision comes as graffiti erupted last month amid tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol, the post-Brexit arrangement on the Irish border and the portrayal of port workers as “targets”.
Amid the outrage over the protocol, there are plenty of dumpings in Belfast, with new checks for goods arriving at ports from Great Britain being introduced earlier this year.
The council said the situation had “caused great distress and anxiety to the staff” and that “there was no other option but to dismiss them from their duties in order to fulfill its care duty”.
It apologized for any inconvenience, but said “the safety and well-being of the staff is paramount.”
In addition to concerns about graffiti, staff expressed concern that individuals were seen taking the number plate details.
Sinn Fin Councilor James McGowan said: “Our staff will leave this job and we will only return if we are completely satisfied, it is safe and it is appropriate for them to do so.
“Currently tensions are rising within the local community and we will not stand by and allow our employees to target them while they do their jobs.”
BSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McQueen said the force officers would then meet with the partner agencies to discuss the situation.
He said: “The safety of the staff working at the entry points is very important to us. If we have reliable information, we will share it with our partners and take appropriate action.
“We have increased patrols at Lorne Harbor and other entry points to reassure staff and the local community.”
Police warned last month that discontent was “growing” in communities loyal to the Northern Ireland protocol, which was designed to avoid a tough border on the island of Ireland after the UK withdrew from the EU.
It is designed to allow Northern Ireland to comply with EU customs rules and cause delays at ports due to new announcements and checks on goods coming from Great Britain.
The DUP has spoken out against the implementation of the protocol.
The party’s North Antrim MP. Ian Baisley condemned the threats to employees, but said the protocol would “cause these problems”.
“Such tactics have no place in democracy,” he said.