CHAPTER 2: the nature and purpose of border
11. As we noted at the outset of this report, national
borders have a hugely symbolic importance in defining a country's
territory; and border controls have historically been an important
expression of sovereign control over a nation's boundaries. Hence
the significance of the decision in the Single European Act to
create an area without internal frontiers and of the measures
taken by the Schengen States to abolish internal frontier controls.
Border controls on people may have lost some of their original
importance as a result of modern developments stemming from the
increase in the volume and diversity of global travel. These developments
have made it necessary to rely to a greater extent on other means
of control, both before arrival at the border (in the form of
visa regimes and carrier liability) and after entry (in the form
of identity card systems and other internal controls), and on
approaches based more on targeted intelligence than on systematic
checks. Yet they continue to be the primary instrument in enforcing
rules on access to the national territory of both goods and people.
12. As we explained in Chapter 1, strengthening external
frontiers has in recent years been seen not only as necessary
to compensate for the removal of internal frontier controls, but
also as an increasingly high political priority in its own right
in the fight against illegal immigration and cross-border crime,
13. Some of our witnesses, while acknowledging the
symbolic importance of border controls questioned their practical
efficacy, in view of the difficulty of policing long land and
sea borders. The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association categorised
most existing systems of border management as based on either
military or police models, the former focused on keeping people
out and the latter pre-occupied with security and the identification
of criminals. They argued for a more rights-based model akin to
that which applies at the internal frontiers of the EU, which
recognises that the majority of those crossing borders have an
entitlement to do so.
Others pointed out that the significance of controls at the border
itself had diminished as the border had been "pushed back"
to countries of origin by the extension of visa regimes and carrier
sanctions, described by Dr Guiraudon, research fellow at the National
Center for Scientific Research in Lille, as "the two cornerstones
of remote migration control".
14. As an instrument to counter illegal immigration
and cross-border crime, border controls clearly have their limitations.
They can never be 100 per cent effective: totally sealed and controlled
land and sea borders are neither feasible nor desirable.
It will always be possible for determined people to find ways
across long land or sea borders, and sophisticated criminals and
facilitators of illegal immigration also find ways of avoiding
detection even at guarded crossing points and airports, for example
by using forged documents. Most illegal immigrants arriving in
the United Kingdom by land or sea will have crossed an external
EU border; and we were told by the German Border Guard that 50
per cent of illegal immigrants detected in Germany had entered
from another Schengen country.
15. It also needs to be borne in mind that an unintended
consequence of more stringent controls at border crossings is
that more illegal immigrants may resort to criminal groups of
people-smugglers to assist them to cross the border.
16. For these reasons border controls cannot bear
the full weight of ensuring security in the EU, but relaxed
or inefficient controls will clearly tend to increase the risks
of illegal immigration and cross-border crime. It is significant
that the Schengen countries felt obliged to adopt a wide range
of compensatory measures after they went ahead with the abolition
of internal border controls between them. These included, among
other things, an upgrading of controls on persons within the national
territories of the Schengen Member States to compensate for the
elimination of controls at internal borders.
17. It would be wrong therefore to dismiss the value
of border controls and regard them as of only symbolic significance.
Given the limited number of entry points, they represent the most
appropriate place at which to check the admissibility of the people
and goods entering the country. This is most apparent for air
traffic where there is relatively little opportunity to enter
other than through authorised airports. Land and sea borders do
not lend themselves to such tight controls, but the vast majority
of traffic still enters via the authorised crossing/entry points.
18. Borders are natural points at which to make checks
on entry to a country and that is why a wide of range of checks
is made there, not only on people but on goods for customs, health,
plant health and other purposes; and to enforce rules on prohibited
and restricted goods. The border is also a natural focus of police
activity, as it provides an opportunity to check people arriving
and it is also the place where by definition the act of smuggling
takes place. Border controls therefore have a role to play in
combating illegal immigration and various forms of cross-border
crime ranging from small scale smuggling to organised crime and
international terrorism. Border controls fulfil this role, not
only through the controls actually carried out, which each year
lead to the detection of large numbers of people seeking to cross
illegally or suspected of criminal offences, but also through
the deterrent effect they have on at least some people who would
otherwise seek to enter the territory illegally.
9 p 53. Back
p 89. Back
We were told by Mr Järviö, the Director General, International
Security Affairs in the Finnish Ministry of the Interior that
it was possible to control the Finnish frontier with Russia to
the extent that there were only 44 illegal immigrants crossing
the border into Finland in a year, all of whom were apprehended
(Q 7). But the geography of the Finnish/Russian border makes it
unlikely that such results could be achieved more generally. Back
Q 52. Back
The Schengen provisions also allow for the temporary re-introduction
of border controls at internal Schengen borders for national security
reasons, a provision which has been invoked on a number of occasions. Back