Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  It was a pleasure to see you on 10 February and to give evidence to Sub-Committee F on Schengen and the UK's border controls.

  I said that I would write to the Committee giving further information about the 27,000 people refused entry at UK ports in 1998. Specifically, the Committee wished to know the number of those arriving from elsewhere within the EEA, and those from outside the EEA.

  I am afraid that we do not keep a note of passengers' embarkation points for the purpose of compiling these statistics. We do, however, know that over a third of the refusals took place at Dover and Waterloo, all of which would have concerned passengers travelling from Europe. It is also worth noting that of 6,338 fraudulent travel documents detected at ports in 1998, 65 per cent were forged EU/EEA travel documents, and 64 per cent were held by passengers arriving from EU/EEA countries. Moreover, of 23,347 port asylum applications made in 1998, 30 per cent were made at Waterloo and Dover.

  I would also like to clarify a point made to me by Lord Pilkington. He asserted that the majority of checks at our ports were made on the basis of intelligence from abroad, and that the maintenance of UK frontier controls was therefore a "last resort". This is not the case.

  Everyone arriving in the United Kingdom is liable to be examined by an immigration officer to determine if they are British citizens, or national of the European Economic Area, or, if not, to establish whether or not they qualify for leave to enter this country in accordance with the published Immigration Rules, which have been approved by Parliament. The power to grant leave to enter is vested solely in the immigration officer at the port.

  All arriving third country national passengers are checked against the Suspect Index, a computerised intelligence system which holds details of those with an adverse immigration history as well as those of interest to other Government agencies. However, regardless of whether they are a previous entry on the SI, an immigration officer will refuse entry to any passenger who does not satisfy him that they qualify for leave to enter in accordance with the published Immigration Rules.

  For example, the immigration officer must be satisfied that a person seeking entry as a visitor is genuinely seeking entry as a visitor for the limited period stated, intends to leave the United Kingdom on completion of the visit and does not intend to take employment in the United Kingdom. In all cases, leave to enter will be refused if the immigration officer is not so satisfied.

  In reaching his decision, the immigration officer will take into account for example:

    —  previous journeys to the United Kingdom and length of time stayed;

    —  return ticketing, adequate funds;

    —  presence in baggage of, e.g., CVs, references, certificates;

    —  presence of family or friends in the United Kingdom; or

    —  presence of family/employment back home ("reason to return home").

  A decision to refuse entry would be based on an assessment of the person's credibility as a visitor, rather than on any intelligence already known about him.

  In the case of an EEA national: the immigration officer may only refuse admission on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. To illustrate this point, for example, the Immigration Service recently refused a Dutch national who presented a passport which had been amended unlawfully to include details of a 13 year old child and who stated that the lady (in her 30s) travelling with her was that child. The refusal of admission on grounds of public policy which ensued came about through the immigration officer's observations on her arrival, rather than being based on intelligence.

  I hope this helps to clarify the position.

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