Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 30 - 39)



  20. Without documents?
  (Mr Boys Smith) To board the train in circumstances where if you show the domestic ticket, yes, you do not need international documentation.

  21. And the French police have no power to throw anybody off the train unless they are committing a criminal offence.
  (Mr Boys Smith) That is broadly the position, but we are obviously in touch with the French authorities as well as with Eurostar to see what we can do to work on this.

  22. A straightforward way in has been to buy, say, a single ticket to Calais and stay on the train. What are you doing to stop that and when will you have stopped it?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I cannot say when we will have stopped it. We are in discussions with the French, with whom—I would want to emphasise—we co-operate extremely closely, both on these issues as on the operational ones that you yourselves have seen at Dover. We are in discussion with them and we are in discussion with Eurostar themselves. There are a number of possibilities, none of which—

  23. Could you give me one or two?
  (Mr Boys Smith) One would be to control the movement between carriages designated for domestic passengers and those designated for international passengers. That is not quite the same as shutting them off as there are safety implications, but those are the sorts of issues that we are discussing. I can assure you that we are discussing them—

  24. However, 800 illegal entrants a month is a matter where there is a great deal of urgency. What needs to be done—and can you comment on this—is for our own people in France, firstly, not to permit upon the train at any stage those who do not have the full travel documents for England and, secondly, those who want an internal ticket to stop at Calais to be put in a different part of the train from those who do not. Can that not be done soon?
  (Mr Boys Smith) No, if I may say so. You say "our people in France" but we do not yet have juxtaposed controls; we have the agreement, which I mentioned to Mr Singh, that the Home Secretary and M. Cheve"nement signed just recently. Full juxtaposed controls equivalent to the one at Coquelles will not come in for about 12 months.

  25. Do you mean we have got 12 more months of 800 illegal entrants a month without being able to stop it?
  (Mr Boys Smith) No, I do not think we have 12 more months of that. As I say, we are making progress in discussions with the French and with Eurostar. If I may say so, it is not the case that all these people are coming in off Calais stoppers, some of them are also coming in on the international trains, perhaps presenting forgeries at the other end which are not identifiable. So the problem is not one confined to the Calais stopper trains. We will press head with these discussions with the French, I think we will make progress and I think, if I may say so, the Committee would get the wrong impression if they thought that we were at logger-heads with the French, who have—

  26. No, I have never suggested that.
  (Mr Boys Smith)—co-operated and done a whole series of things, some of them extremely important to us—like, for example, prosecution of facilitators at Calais.

  27. If I could add, would I be wrong in saying that over the last two or three years, possibly longer, those who wish to gain entry illegally to this country have had the simplest of tasks in buying a single to Calais, without any document necessarily, and simply arriving at Waterloo?
  (Mr Boys Smith) That is an avenue presently open, which is why we are treating it with the urgency that you yourself have referred to.

  28. I hope you are. Over the last two years I have not had a sense of urgency.
  (Mr Boys Smith) I think we have made considerable progress with the French. For example, in advance of the implementation of juxtaposed controls there are the informal checks that they make, entirely on our behalf—at their cost—to examine the documents of people joining, if you like, the international bit of the train.

  29. Will you have cracked this problem in 12 months?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I cannot say that we will crack it, if by "cracking" you mean solving it entirely. One of the lessons we constantly learn is that the ingenuity and pressures will be such that people will find other ways of getting through. I believe we will make serious progress on this and, as I say, both at ministerial level and at official level it is being treated urgently and there are ample discussions going on.

Mr Linton

  30. I just wanted to ask Mr Boys Smith if there is any prospect of extending this principle of juxtaposed controls, because it seems to me that it does make much more sense to check passports at a point of embarkation than debarkation, if you have a choice, and we have never had the choice before until the special circumstances of the Channel Tunnel. If we do have the option, for instance, on ferry ports of doing something similar, then obviously people are not going to be allowed to stay here if they are not allowed on the boat in the first place. Is that something you would like to see extended? If so, do you think that the French are likely to be sympathetic to that?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I think the important thing, if I may say by way of a preliminary to that answer, is that any changes of that kind would take a long time to bring in. They would be the subject of extensive international negotiation—I think much longer negotiation than was necessary to secure the agreement to the juxtaposed controls at the Gare du Nord. They would require, moreover, big, physical structural changes, both at Calais and, of course, at Dover, because if we were to have that control at Dover the French would, naturally—as they will in relation to the trains at Waterloo—want one at Dover, and substantial reconstruction of Dover would be required. It is important to see these things as relatively long term. Beyond that, I have some hesitation about that. I do not want to rule it out as something that we might want to move to, but it is really for the displacement reason that has been alluded to already; it would be very resource-intensive, we would have to have large numbers of staff in a rebuilt Calais to handle this volume of traffic, and the ingenuity and, as I say, pressure which we see so often may well only mean that having spent many millions of pounds and having had extensive international negotiation we ended up with a juxtaposed control in relation to vehicles at Calais and not at Zeebrugge or elsewhere on the coast. I think there is a real risk that we would make major financial, resourcing and, if you like, diplomatic investment only to find that it did not have the effect we wanted. So it is not something to jump at, I think.

  31. I take your point, but do you think there is any strength in the complaint of the Refugee Council and others that this decision on juxtaposed controls makes it impossible for genuine asylum seekers to arrive in this country to seek asylum in the first place?
  (Mr Boys Smith) There is a wider point there, to which I might return, about some comments on the 1951 Convention. I think it is important to understand, with juxtaposed controls, that we are talking only of France and, therefore, we are talking of another Member State of the EU in whose borders anybody can, of course, claim asylum. So that I think the suggestion that somehow people are being disadvantaged in a major way by not being able to come to the UK to claim asylum when they could perfectly well have done so in France is an important consideration. That said—and I am not trying to avoid a proper answer to your question—clearly, the number of controls now in place mean that those who are not adequately documented find it harder to get on board the various kinds of transport, and the carriers' liability arrangements that Mr Roberts referred to is another example of that. Again, that links up with some of these points which the Home Secretary has been making about the 1951 Convention.

Mrs Dean

  32. Just to follow on, Mr Boys Smith, from Mr Malins, have you done any calculations or investigations into what percentage of people arriving at Waterloo are on Calais-stopping trains?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I think it is about 30 per cent of the inadequately documented people.
  (Mr Roberts) I think that is a reasonable stab at the numbers. Thirty per cent are arriving on trains that stop at Calais, and some actually gain access to that train at Calais and there is an issue about closer liaison with the French police to make sure that only people who are properly documented would get on. Some get on at Gare du Nord, some get on at Lille, and the issue Mr Malins referred to of the Calais stopping train has been with us for some time. We have, actually, been quite pro-active. We have put our own officers on those trains, and our very physical presence has discouraged those who are organising this to try elsewhere, and the French police have, themselves, taken direct action against an organisation that was using this as a route in. However, it remains a vulnerable route for us, for the reasons which have already been discussed.

Mr Howarth

  33. Mr Boys Smith, we do have this rather bizarre situation which we ourselves saw in Calais where there are hundreds of people milling around who could perfectly well seek asylum in France if they chose to do so but have not chosen to do so but who are trying to find the opportunity to cheat the system. Until such time as you have got these juxtaposed controls at Gare du Nord, you are reliant on the French authorities for processing the entrants and examining the documents. We had a look at Dover at the sophistication of some of the forged documents. Clearly, your people are going to be well-briefed on the forgeries but what about our French counterparts? Are they well-briefed, or are you training them on the kind of forgeries you are seeing? Are you confident they are doing a proper job there?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I will ask Mr Wilson to come in in just a second, but, yes, we do have lots of communication with the French. Indeed, not only with the French, we work extensively in the EU fora with issues to do with document forgery. I am not aware that we are actually training the French.
  (Mr Wilson) As you may know, the United Kingdom has its own national forgery section which deals specifically with forged travel documents and supporting documents which are used to secure those documents. The French have a similar national organisation which is based in Paris. We work, in fact, very closely together and we are actually collaborating on a joint seminar this July, which is part of their European Union Presidency. This will take place in Paris in July for two days, at which the UK will give a workshop on forgery and the most commonly held forgeries. On the more European Union-wide front, the French are very active, as we are, with the Dutch in delivering an annual forgery seminar, which is a two-week exercise, which is training for experts. That goes beyond the normal and requires border guards to go into the expert field so that experts can deliver that training on down, and that training takes place every year in Zutphen in the Netherlands. It is part of a EU training programme.


  34. Can we turn now to resources, Mr Boys Smith. I have to say that everywhere we went we found the staff in the various directorates had great big smiles on their faces, saying that at last they felt they had got the resources they needed, after a difficult period. Have you got the funding fixed for the current financial year?
  (Mr Boys Smith) The final figures are not exactly worked through in terms of pounds, but we do know what the growth in staffing will be, if it would be helpful to tell the Committee?

  35. Yes, please.
  (Mr Boys Smith) At April of this year, just taking the Immigration Service as a whole (and I am rounding these figures for convenience) there were about 2,600 people in the Immigration Service. We expect that to grow by about 1,000 in the current financial year. So there is a substantial growth, after a period, I entirely accept, of absence of growth.

  36. Do you feel you have got an adequate level of funding to meet the objectives that you have set yourselves?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I think we have. I should make clear that, obviously, there are, as in any organisation, competing priorities, and one of the priorities that ministers themselves have made very clear is case-working on asylum, and significant extra resources are going into that. However, we are now in a situation where we can devote a great deal more to the border end of the business.

  37. We are very pleased to hear it. Most people who sit where you sit tell us another story.
  (Mr Boys Smith) Indeed, yes.

  38. To what extent do your resource plans for the next three years take into account the expected growth in passenger arrivals—8 million nationals from the European area and 1 million from the non-area?
  (Mr Boys Smith) They try to take that into account. I am conscious, again, that we understand those pressures are growing, and although we do not know quite how case-working on asylum will go there will be constant pressure there. We have done our best to set out plans that will take that into account and allow us, therefore, to get on top of issues in a way that, perhaps, has not been possible in recent years. Again, both at the frontier and in-country.

  39. I said to one of your senior colleagues—I think it was at Dover—that with the welcome changes being made in the back-of-lorry traffic, as it were, I said "If I was in the people-smuggling business what would you advise me to do next?" and he said "I would buy two landing craft boats with powerful engines, and it is back to the beaches". I mention that to you in order to ask, do you feel you have got enough flexibility to cope with changes like this—your earlier point about the money you may spend and then find should have gone elsewhere?
  (Mr Boys Smith) I think we have. I think it would be foolish of anybody in my kind of position to say they know with absolute confidence that for years in future they will have enough resources to deal in the way they would like with the issues that then present themselves, but I think we have got a lot of flexibility in terms of the resources we have—both for the frontier control and for in-country enforcement. If I may say, in parenthesis, which I think is an important point to emphasise to the Committee, it is what happens in-country which is crucially important to the approach taken by those seeking to get through the frontier. In resource terms we are much better placed, and I hope we will be adequately placed in future. Of course, in terms of the recent legislation and the flexibility provisions that that contains, we have now got a legal framework which will make it much easier for us to flex according to the requirements, to be more intelligence based and not to devote resources to those who present no threat, for example, to immigration control. I think that is a crucially important step forward as well.

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