FACILITATION SUPPORT UNIT (FSU)
The Facilitation Support Unit (FSU) was formed in
July 1994 to counter the growing trend of facilitation of asylum
and illegal entry, both by clandestine and document abuse means.
It is jointly staffed by the Immigration Service (IS) and Kent
Police and is based in IS accommodation in Dover. The cost of
resources such as telecommunications, information technology and
transport is shared by the two agencies. The staffing complement
currently comprises a Chief Immigration Officer, four Immigration
Officers, a Detective Inspector and seven Detective Constables.
The FSU's principal remit is to investigate
incidents of suspected facilitation of illegal entrants and asylum
claimants and, where appropriate, to instigate prosecutions under
Section 25 of the 1971 Act as amended by the 1996 and 1999 Acts.
In 1999, the FSU investigated 299 incidents and arrested 410 persons
suspected of facilitating a total of 1,803 illegal entrants/asylum
claimants. In the same period, 105 trials were completed involving
120 defendants and resulting in 106 convictions. Custodial sentences
exceeding 172 years were imposed.
The statistics point to the success of the joint
agency approach to the problem of facilitation. However, there
have been teething problems in achieving the standard of evidence
required for the Crown Prosecution Service to sanction prosecution
in some cases. In particular, there has been difficulty in establishing
that facilitation was "for gain" in Section 25 (1)(b)
cases involving asylum claimants as required by Section 25(1A)
as amended by the 1996 Act. That said, the 1999 Act has helpfully
extended the scope of Section 25 of the 1971 Act in areas relating
to actions committed abroad by British Citizens to facilitate
the entry of asylum claimants and the seizure and forfeiture of
vehicles used in facilitation attempts. Significantly, the 1999
Act has increased the maximum custodial sentence that can be imposed
following a conviction on indictment from seven years to ten years'
It is hoped that legislative changes, together
with the implementation of the Civil Penalty regime, will deter
the facilitation of illegal entrants and asylum claimants, but
will assist both the FSU and the Courts in dealing effectively
with the problem when it arises.