Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary notes by the Home Office


I gave evidence to the Committee on 7 November as part of the above inquiry and undertook to write with further information on a number of points.


  The Committee expressed interest in the periods of entry granted to those arriving at United Kingdom ports with work permits. Leave to enter will normally be for the length of the permit. This can range from a few days (eg a performer entering for a specific engagement for which a permit is required) to five years.

  The Overseas Labour Service (OLS) introduced five-year permits on 1 November 2000. The previous maximum period for which a work permit would be issued was four years. This is an outcome of the Work Permit Review and reflected a wish by individual work permit holders to plan the time of their settlement applications in line with their employer's needs. Individuals will continue to be able to seek settlement following four years continuous residence in the United Kingdom as a work permit holder.


  The reorganisation of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate took place towards the end of 1998. In 1998, 84 per cent of appeals determined by adjudicators were dismissed and 9 per cent were allowed. The percentage of dismissed appeals in January this year was 74 per cent; it rose to 85 per cent in August and is currently 81 per cent. The number of allowed appeals has dropped from 23 per cent in January to a current level of 16 per cent. The percentage of dismissed appeals so far during this calendar year is therefore on a par with that prior to IND reorganisation.

  As the Integrated Casework Directorate was set up with multi-skilled teams dealing with both asylum and immigration casework, figures on the breakdown of staff dealing with differing types of case were not kept centrally. However, by mid 1999 it had become clear that the number of trained asylum caseworkers in the ICD was significantly lower than in July 1998. Additional staff to deal with asylum casework were recruited in the Autumn of 1999. Over the past 12 months some 450 additional asylum caseworkers have been appointed and located in Croydon, Liverpool and Leeds.


  I undertook to provide the Committee with the numbers of removals of those who had been through the Oakington Reception Centre and also the proportion of those who go on from Oakington to be detained in formal detention. The Centre opened on 20 March and, as of 24 November, a total of 1,965 decisions refusing asylum have been made. Over 1,770 applicants refused asylum have appealed; 778 appeals have so far been heard, 96 per cent of which have been dismissed by an adjudicator. So far 254 failed asylum applicants have been removed or departed voluntarily.

  A total of 401 applicants (nearly 15 per cent) have moved from Oakington and been detained in Immigration Service detention centres and prisons holding immigration detainees.


  There were 7,610 removals of failed asylum seekers in the first 10 months of the year. We now expect to exceed last year's total which itself was a record.


  The Committee asked about the incident at Dover on Sunday 18 June, when 60 people were discovered in a refrigerated lorry that arrived from Zeebrugge, in particular in relation to the sharing of information with Customs and Excise.

  Fifty four men and four women of this human cargo were dead. They were all in their early twenties and were Chinese nationals. All the bodies have now been formally identified.

  Two survivors were taken to hospital. They subsequently claimed asylum, which was refused, but they were later granted exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom for four years. This was in recognition of the traumatic circumstances of their arrival and also because of their special position in relation to Kent Police's investigation. They remain important witnesses to a major crime and are now on the witness protection programme.

  The driver of the lorry, a Dutch national, was arrested. Whilst there is an on-going investigation into potential criminal offences, no further details may be given. The incident continues to be the subject of a major criminal investigation by the Kent police.

  The Immigration Service cannot search every lorry arriving at ports. For example, in a single day in June, the month in which the incident occurred, there were 3,257 lorries arriving at Dover. Therefore, the Immigration Service works closely with other agencies such as Customs and Excise, targeting those vehicles they believe are suspect using detection equipment and the new provisions within the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to obtain information from carriers. This particular lorry was intercepted following selection by Customs and Excise for anti smuggling checks.


  You asked about systems in place for sharing information with other agencies, and in particular whether there were any difficulties with the sharing of information with Customs and Excise.

  The statutory gateway provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 enable the exchange of information between the Immigration Service and other law enforcement agencies, including Customs and Excise. As previously reported, the gateways allow information to be shared for specified purposes which broadly equate with each agency's statutory functions so that where the Immigration Service holds information useful for Customs and Excise purposes, it will pass that information on. In addition, Customs and Excise will have routine access to the information specified in Part I of the Passenger Information Order, to the extent that it is collected from carriers by the Immigration Service, because they have identified a legitimate reason for access to that information.

  There is a good and improving level of co-operation between the Immigration Service and Customs and Excise at local level. At Dover, there is regular exchange of targeted intelligence and plans are in hand to establish a Joint Intelligence Unit there, placing co-operation on a more formalised footing and mirroring arrangements already in existence at Heathrow. By the very nature of their work, Customs and Excise detect many clandestines and co-operation in this area is excellent. At a strategic level, a recent meeting with Customs and Excise officials has been extremely positive. In addition, the Immigration Service has commenced a detailed study of data-sharing issues and will seek to extend access to information to which it has a legitimate entitlement, including information held by carriers. With the Immigration Service chairing the Border Agency Working Group next year, we anticipate working together towards exchanging more information while ensuring that we comply with our legal obligations.


  The Committee will also wish to be made aware of a revised management structure, which was introduced in the Immigration Service in October 2000.

  The Immigration Service is undergoing a rapid growth in staffing throughout the United Kingdom as part of a strategy to increase removals. A revised management structure has been introduced to cater for this growth. Emphasis is being placed upon a more unified Immigration Service with cross functional responsibilities rather than the separate roles of the Directorates as described in section 1.2 of the memorandum of evidence submitted to the Committee on 22 May 2000.

  The Directorate titles of Immigration Service Ports Directorate and Immigration Service Enforcement Directorate have been discontinued. The Immigration Service now has two Directors responsible for "Immigration Service Regional Operations" and "Immigration Service South East Operations".

Jack Straw

4 December 2000

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