Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
TUESDAY 20 JUNE 2000
240. One of the non-technological means of detecting
illegals on the back of trucks is the use of sniffer dogs, which
the Immigration Service and Customs are using. Would it not be
an idea as a non-technological approach for your members to have
a guard dogs on lorries?
(Mr Green) I am not sure what the RSPCA would say
about every truck having a guard dog and being driven around over
great lengths of Europe, but clearly there is a role for dogs
and they have been used. Equally, you have to put it in the context
that often we are talking about movements of sealed vehicles,
with customs seals on them. You do not actually want to open the
vehicle up, there are security problems if you start opening the
vehicle up. A standard instruction to international drivers has
been in the past, "Never open your vehicle" because
as soon as you open the back of the vehicle you give rise to other
sorts of crime starting to persist. So you are really looking
for a solution which can avoid all of those problems. That is
why I am saying the sort of equipment which does enable drive-through
checks to be done seems to me to be the logical route to go down.
241. Mr Green, you mentioned that you were talking
to the Home Office about putting your own equipment in Calais?
(Mr Green) The IRU has been actively looking at the
installation of equipment within Calais, is talking to the authorities
in Calais at this time, in fact there have been developments within
the last 48 hours, have there not, Gordon?
(Mr Linington) Yes. What the IRU have been doing,
and indeed the Freight Transport Association have been doing,
is talking to a number of security companies which have been interested
in running a checking facility as a commercial enterprise. We
mentioned earlier that some of those earlier companies have dropped
out because they did not get a lot of change from the French authorities,
but it seems recently there has been a sea change in the attitude.
There are now very active talks going on between the IRU, a security
company and the Port of Calais and other French authorities about
introducing the type of equipment we have been talking about,
which is the equipment used on the Mexican-American border.
242. I was told you had made an offer to put
this equipment on that kind of basis at Folkestone and you got
a frosty response from the Home Office.
(Mr Linington) I am not aware of that. Of course,
the whole point is that for this to be effective in terms of the
UK's objectives the equipment has to be based outside the UK because
part of the objective clearly is to deter immigrants arriving
in the UK. Having detection equipment in the ports at the UK,
quite apart from the physical difficulties it is going to cause,
is rather late given that most of the asylum seekers do not wait
to be detected, they are quite happy to jump out and surrender
themselves up to the authorities.
243. Mr Forster, have you had any requests from
any of the border agencies to provide them with information on
out-going passengers? I do not just mean on a one-off basis, I
mean as a regular feature.
(Mr Forster) Yes, we frequently get requests from
the Immigration Service. We have in the past had, "Has this
passenger departed on ..."
244. No, I do not mean on a one-off basis, looking
for Joe or Jean Bloggs. You are saying not as a generality?
(Mr Forster) Ad hoc requests only.
245. Could I ask Mr Linington to describe this
equipment used on the US-Mexican border?
(Mr Linington) I have not actually seen it in operation
but, as I understand it, it is equipment which can scan a vehicle
in less than a minute. It is a form of x-ray equipment.
246. Is it portable?
(Mr Linington) It is fixed equipment but it can be
moved to other locations in the port.
247. We have heard about the juxtaposed controls
at Calais, what benefits would you see to your business and to
yours, Mr Green, in terms of extending those types of controls
to other countries and other ports and airports in fact?
(Mr Forster) I think there are two benefits for the
carrier and its passengers. One is that pre-clearance is an attractive
proposition in that passengers can clear immigration controls
before leaving, therefore they avoid any queues on arrival in
this country. After a long journey, they are tired, they want
to get on, and the last thing they want to do is to queue up and
wait to go through immigration, so there is a passenger benefit
associated with pre-clearance. The other benefit for the carrier
is that it transfers the responsibility to the Immigration Service
where we believe the responsibility should lie for deciding who
is or is not carried on board aircraft to the UK. So we would
wholly support any initiatives in respect of pre-clearance.
248. Would it affect British Airways that much?
Because of carriers' liability the checks that there are at airports
now, going out or coming in, are very, very stringent by local
foreign authorities, so would it really be of benefit to you to
(Mr Forster) Is your question, are the departure immigration
authorities checking documentation?
249. Yes, that is right.
(Mr Forster) In our experience, the departure immigration
authorities do not check for forged documents, for example. They
may well check if somebody is in possession of documents, but
a thorough examination of documents does not normally take place.
250. I just mention that because I was in Islamabad
last September and getting into Islamabad was far easier than
getting out of Islamabad and I did not understand why. I thought
it was to do with carriers' liability.
(Mr Forster) I should qualify my statement by saying
that it does differ by country. Within the EU, for example, the
outbound checks by immigration authorities are pretty fast, whereas
at overseas points there is a more thorough examination conducted.
I am not convinced though that the authorities in Islamabad, for
example, are conducting the checks because of carriers' liability;
that is the airline's responsibility, of course.
251. I thought there must be liaison between
the airline and those authorities to ensure stricter control.
(Mr Forster) Not to my knowledge.
252. I must say it was a relief to get out of
Islamabad because a week later there was a military coup! Mr Green?
(Mr Green) Responding to your point, clearly there
has been a lot of attention on Calais because it is the port through
which a large number of movements take place, and as one or two
members of the Committee have recognised it is the place where
quite a lot of the problems have been seen to the greatest extent,
but it clearly is not just an issue of having the right procedures
in place in Calais. Indeed, even if one did have the measures
in place which properly closed off Calais, the sort of ingenious
minds which are at work here would quickly find other places from
which to trade and operate. Going back to the weekend, it is right
to acknowledge that Zeebrugge has had a better record than Calais
in this respect and, regrettably, it was Zeebrugge from which
that movement at the weekend took place.
253. Would juxtaposed controls at Zeebrugge
have prevented the tragedy this weekend?
(Mr Green) I think it is very difficult to comment
in too much detail on a situation about which I do not know all
the facts. Clearly if a vehicle was subjected to the sort of check
that we were describing by way of x-ray facilities, I believe
it would have determined there were people on board that vehicle.
254. Do you welcome the extra security arrangements
at the Port of Calais which the port authorities are now implementing?
(Mr Green) Certainly.
255. At quite a huge cost to themselves, I think.
(Mr Green) Absolutely. We certainly have prompted
and argued for an improvement in the security arrangements there
for many months.
256. They are very welcome?
(Mr Green) They are indeed.
257. Mr Forster, you said in answer to a previous
question recently that errors were already being made because
of the enormous volumes of traffic which organisations had to
handle. Air traffic is forecast to increase substantially over
the next 15 years, what additional burdens would that place upon
the various agencies to look at new strategic ways of resolving
this kind of problems and avoiding those kind of errors?
(Mr Forster) Are you asking what the authorities should
(Mr Forster) We clearly need to look at the arrival
and immigration controls and how they are managed. With volumes
set to grow, as we have heard earlier today, immigration halls
are only so large and they cannot be extended much more than they
are today at our major ports. That is why we welcome the provisions
of the Immigration and Asylum Act that relate to flexibility and
passengers being granted entry control at overseas points, so
that the processing at ports of entry will hopefully be speeded
up to ensure that queues are kept to a minimum.
259. Is there a need for new technology to be
(Mr Forster) I think there is a need for us to examine
whether technology can play a part. We have already seen experience
in the United States of the INSPASS scheme which uses hand biometrics
to speed frequent flyers through controls.