FOURTH SPECIAL REPORT
GOVERNMENT REPLY TO THE FIRST REPORT FROM
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, SESSION 2000-01
The Home Affairs Committee has agreed to the following
We have received the following response from the
Home Office to our First Report, HC 163, Session 2000-01, on Border
1. The Government welcomes this report and the endorsement
it gives both to the concept of border controls, which are central
to the Government's policy on controlling immigration, and to
the recent initiatives to increase their effectiveness.
2. The inquiry has centred on the deterrence and
detection of illegal entrants, responsibility for which falls
largely to the Immigration Service as part of the Immigration
and Nationality Directorate (IND), but has also encompassed the
work of HM Customs & Excise and Police at UK borders. The
three agencies work closely together both on a strategic and operational
level, and have reviewed the recommendations made by the Committee
3. This memorandum responds to each of the recommendations
individually and in chronological order except where obvious linkages
make it sensible to take a number of recommendations together.
As requested in a letter of 1 February from the Clerk of the Committee
to the Director General of Immigration and Nationality Directorate,
Mr Stephen Boys Smith, the suggestion made within the report (paragraph
87) for a review of the case for and against the introduction
of an entitlement card system has also been addressed.
The Government should examine the 'pull' factors
(set out in paragraph 10 above) to see which ones they can legitimately
influence. (paragraph 19).
4. The Government acknowledges that there are benefits
from such an examination. Indeed, the Home Office is currently
conducting three research projects, which address the need for
greater understanding of why individuals seek asylum in the UK.
The first project explores why asylum seekers choose to migrate
to one destination rather than another, using the UK as a case
study and taking into account aspects such as the individual's
perception of Britain. The second and third projects are feasibility
studies, one of which examines asylum policies and practices in
the EU and assesses their impact on asylum applications; and the
other of which focuses on the social and information networks
of asylum seekers.
We welcome the wider debate about immigration
policy as a timely reminder that there is a broader context, including
employment policy, in which border controls should be seen. There
should be a known and clear policy on which immigrants, if any,
the country wants to encourage to meet labour shortages and demographic
changes (paragraph 24).
5. The Government welcomes the Committee's recognition
of its initiation of a wider debate on immigration and fully supports
the call for clear policies towards those seeking to work in the
6. The main route of entry to the UK for employment
is our long-standing work permit system, allowing employers themselves
to match the person to a job vacancy. The Government recognises
that certain employment sectors suffer acute shortages and has
accordingly simplified the process for employers seeking to recruit
foreign nationals for such jobs. The system is clear
and is generally popular with employers - as evidenced
by customer surveys and the increase in the number of work permit
applications. The scheme allows companies to find the right person
for their needs whilst safeguarding the existing labour force.
7. The Government also recognises the particular
contribution which highly talented individuals can make to the
"knowledge economy". It has implemented a pilot programme
to enable people with innovative business ideas to come to the
UK to set up businesses and is developing a programme to enable
those with specialist knowledge or skills to come to the UK to
8. In addition, the Government is undertaking a programme
of research to inform policy development in this area, including
research on the impact of migration on particular groups of native
workers, local area impacts, the illegal population and the impacts
of migration on source countries.
9. The Government considers it important to emphasise
that immigration is not the only solution to labour shortages
and demographic changes. There are a number of possible ways of
addressing these issues, including increasing labour market participation
and increasing the skills of the existing population through training
and increased productivity.
We conclude that measures to counter trafficking
in illegal immigrants require similar tactics to those used against
drug smuggling -international co-operation, tackling the problem
close to the source and aiming to disrupt the business. Border
agencies should have the necessary gateways to operate joint intelligence
cells and allow closer operational arrangements to counter the
displacement element of more effective controls (paragraph 31).
10. The Government agrees that the tactics used to
combat drug trafficking can be successfully applied to people
smuggling and trafficking and is pursuing this goal. Project Reflex,
set up in May 2000 in response to increasing organised criminal
involvement in illegal immigration, takes a similar approach to
the Customs-led Concerted Inter-Agency Drugs Action group which
is working to reduce the availability of Class A drugs in the
UK. Project Reflex, led by the Director-General of the National
Crime Squad, includes representatives from all relevant law enforcement
agencies (including the Immigration Service) as well as the Security
and Intelligence agencies. All operational activity targeted against
serious and organised criminal involvement in illegal immigration
is now co-ordinated through Project Reflex.
11. The Government provided additional funding for
Project Reflex (£2m) which has enabled the National Crime
Squad (NCS) and other police groups to take forward additional
operational activity against identified targets. In addition,
Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) are being posted to key pressure
points on the main trafficking routes to gather intelligence and
to encourage and co-ordinate activity with local law enforcement
agencies. An existing ILO post with the French Border Police (PAF)
plays an important role in exchanging intelligence and in co-ordinating
operations against organised immigrant smuggling between France
and the UK. Studies to assess the extent of the problem are being
undertaken in the Balkans and the Far East.
12. An exercise is also underway to set up a joint-agency
operational team whose remit will be to take forward investigations
to disrupt and prosecute organised crime groups involved in people
smuggling and trafficking. The team will bring together officers
from the National Crime Squad and the Immigration Service, supported
by dedicated links to the intelligence agencies and NCIS. The
team should be operational by the end of 2001.
13. The Government is also strongly committed to
the use of the National Intelligence Model developed by NCIS for
use by all police forces to standardise and protect the gathering
and exchange of intelligence material, throughout the Immigration
Service. Joint intelligence cells to support the move towards
intelligence-led controls are being created within each Immigration
Service region. Many are already established and working. The
statutory gateways put in place by Section 21 of the Immigration
and Asylum Act 1999 enable the Immigration Service to share information
it has collected for its own purposes with Customs, the police
and other agencies, where that information is also required for
We recommend that the border agencies engage closely
with airport operators to ensure that new terminals are designed
in a way which enhances the operation of effective border controls
14. The Government agrees that there should be close
co-operation between the border agencies and port operators and
there are many examples of such co-operation on a national and
local level. It is already the policy of the control authorities
to consult with industry on relevant issues, as illustrated by
the consultation processes established in connection with the
implementation of provisions within the Immigration and Asylum
15. With particular regard to the design of new terminals,
there is already evidence of close co-operation between border
agencies and port operators. As an example, British Airport Authority's
(BAA) outline proposals for a new Heathrow terminal are well advanced
and, as part of the planning process, meetings have been held
between BAA, the Immigration Service, Customs and Excise and the
Police to determine requirements.
16. Discussions are at a very early stage, but a
workshop involving BAA and the control authorities has now been
established. The scope for sharing office accommodation and other
facilities, such as interview rooms, rest rooms and toilets is
being examined by the control authorities.
We welcome the new emphasis being placed on advanced
controls at the point of departure to the UK and recommend that
the Government should take immediate steps to establish such controls
abroad. (paragraph 51).
17. The Government considers that the establishment
of the juxtaposed controls on Eurostar services from France will
make a significant contribution to the reduction of inadequately
documented passengers arriving in the United Kingdom at Waterloo.
18. The ratification process, which will introduce
the necessary legislative framework in both the United Kingdom
and France, is under way. In the United Kingdom that process should
be complete by Easter. In France we understand that the process
will be complete by late Spring/early Summer 2001. As soon as
the legislative framework is in place it is intended to deploy
UK Immigration Service staff at Eurostar stations in France. Meanwhile
a considerable amount of detailed discussion is taking place on
a regular basis with French colleagues in a variety of agencies,
particularly the Police Aux Frontieres (PAF) and SNCF the French
19. The subject of illegal immigration was central
to discussions at the UK -French Summit in Cahors on 9 February.
The French Government now plans to introduce into their domestic
legislation powers to require passengers on the Eurostar domestic
service from Paris to Calais to be documented for travel to the
UK. More than half of the inadequately documented arrivals at
Waterloo arrive by these three daily services. Currently passengers
travelling only the domestic leg are not subject under French
domestic law to any document check when they embark on that internal
journey. Many are intent on travel to the UK and simply remain
on the train through to London. It is understood that under French
law there is no power to enable train crew or French police to
set passengers with inadequate ticketing down from the train.
The undertaking to introduce new legislation in France to plug
that loophole is most welcome and it is understood that this legislation
will be ratified concurrently with the Additional Protocol. If
that proposal receives approval in the French Parliament, draft
legislation in the UK, currently laid before Parliament, makes
provision for examination of all passengers wishing to board the
Eurostar in France as persons seeking entry to the UK, regardless
of the destination shown on their ticket. With these measures
in place the introduction of juxtaposed controls, planned for
early June, will have the maximum impact on the numbers of inadequately
documented arrivals by Eurostar.
20. An agreement has recently been signed between
the Governments of the Czech Republic and United Kingdom to allow
the operation of a pre-clearance immigration control by UK immigration
officers in Prague airport. The legal framework and operational
arrangements are now in place to implement the system. We are
currently monitoring passenger traffic from the Czech Republic
to inform decisions on the timing of implementation of the scheme.
21. It is not envisaged that pre-clearance immigration
controls in Prague will be a permanent fixture. The scheme is
designed as a flexible and responsive measure to tackle the problem
of inadmissible and inadequately documented passengers arriving
from the Czech Republic. Under the scheme all passengers travelling
from Prague Airport would be required to see a UK immigration
officer before checking in for a direct flight to the UK. When
implemented the immigration officer has powers to grant or refuse
leave to enter the United Kingdom at that point.
We welcome the increased co-operation between
the UK government and the French authorities on measures to combat
clandestine entrants but further measures will need to be taken
to make this more effective. (paragraph 52).
22. The Government welcomes the report's recognition
of the continuing dialogue between the British and French authorities.
The UK-French Summit of 9 February agreed the establishment of
a Cross Channel Commission to tackle immigration issues. Regular
contact is maintained between the Deputy Director General (Operations)
of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and his counterpart,
the Head of the Police aux Frontieres (PAF) in Paris. Relationships
have been built between officials beneath this central contact
to deliver closer operational working over a range of issues.
23. Discussion with French authorities, Sous Prefet,
PAF and Calais Chamber of Commerce at local level (Pas de Calais)
assisted in the establishment of checks by ferry operators on
the basis of conditions of carriage. This has led to a significant
overall reduction in the number of clandestine entrants and undocumented
passengers encountered in the Dover area, with local figures suggesting
a drop of some 37% in the twelve week period following commencement
of the checks compared with a similar period before they began.
24. Daily operational contact includes agreed exchange
of information on clandestine entry, local intelligence on those
identified and prosecuted for facilitation and the operational
implementation of the gentlemen's agreement for non asylum cases.
Agreement of the French authorities has been secured to the deployment
of immigration officers on British ships to assist carriers in
prevention of boarding of clandestine entrants. This has been
of significant value and is now complementary to the P&O Stena
Line pre-boarding checks. The Assistant Director of the Immigration
Service, South East District has agreed formal bi-monthly meetings
with the Departmental Director of PAF to address all co-operation
issues. Weekly meetings are held between the PAF and the Immigration
Service in Coquelles to intensify contact and to resolve operational
problems at the British control zone in Coquelles.
25. Short attachments have been agreed in principle
for UK staff to work with the PAF in Calais and for PAF officers
to work with the Immigration Service at Dover. The recent displacement
of some flows of clandestine entrants to the Coquelles site has
prompted further co-operative action. The French Government has
provided a positive approach to the escalating problem of illegal
entry on Eurotunnel freight shuttles. The Prefet for Pas de Calais
has been personally charged with securing security improvements
and Eurotunnel have responded promptly to his requirement that
an inner security zone be created around the platform areas.
26. Wider intelligence activity to counter clandestine
entry is conducted with the PAF.
Through the Immigration Service Liaison Officer (ILO)
at the Headquarters of the PAF in Paris, IND Intelligence Section
has been involved in some 12 major investigations during the year
2000 which were focused on major illegal immigration networks
moving people between France and the United Kingdom. Many of these
had a multi-agency aspect on the British side involving Facilitation
Support Unit (FSU) at Dover; National Criminal Intelligence Service
(NCIS); or the National Crime Squad (NCS). On the French side
the lead is taken by the Office Centrale pour la Repression
de l'Immigration Illegale and de l'Emploi des personnes Sans Titres
(OCRIEST) - the investigative, operational arm of the PAF.
27. Alongside the long running working with the PAF
and OCRIEST, the rising profile of illegal immigration and the
movement of some of the illegal immigration traffic from the Calais
area towards other ports on the French Channel coast is broadening
the extent of co-operation to include other French law enforcement
agencies - Gendarmerie Nationale and French Customs. There is
also contact with specialist police teams in the Paris area looking
at illegal immigration networks.
28. The ILO regularly exchanges intelligence in respect
of all aspects of illegal immigration between the France and the
UK and, in addition to his contacts with law enforcement agencies,
he is increasingly in touch with prefectures and sous-prefectures
on matters of mutual interest in the context of immigration abuse.
The Immigration Service National Forgery Section (ISNFS) also
maintains regular liaison with its opposite numbers in the PAF
on issues of mutual interest involving forged and falsified travel
We welcome this significant increase in resources
for the Immigration Service. We recognise, however, that the sharp
increase in asylum applicants makes that increased funding essential
and we believe that it must be sustained. (paragraph 57).
29. The Government welcomes the Committee's acknowledgement
of the significant increases in funds it has allocated to immigration
work. The Immigration Service has secured sufficient funding to
ensure that the recent increase in staffing resources can be maintained
until at least 2004, this being the period covered by the recent
The new powers for the Immigration Service -to
work more flexibly, to be intelligence-led and to concentrate
their resources on the arrivals who pose the highest risk -are
welcome, but it is too early to judge their efficiency in the
use of resources or its effectiveness in detecting and deterring
illegal entry (paragraph 59).
30. The Government welcomes the Committee's endorsement
of its initiative to introduce intelligence-led controls and a
more flexible way of working to the Immigration Service. The "Resourcing
to Risk Project" (RRP) will introduce the National Intelligence
Model throughout the Immigration Service, and it is anticipated
that during the course of this year intelligence units will be
established in every Command. RRP is also currently co-ordinating
the development of pilot exercises based on the provision of passenger
information. Expedited clearance based on Advance Passenger Information
is being trialled with a view to facilitating low risk passengers,
while exercises based on access to Passenger Name Records will
enhance the intelligence effort.
We conclude that the Home Office has been dilatory
in enforcing the removal of people whose asylum claims have been
refused and others who have gained illegal entry to the UK. This
in itself has attracted more people to the UK. The additional
resources being committed to enforcement are welcome. The target
of 30,000 removals in 2001-02- a ten-fold increase over the 1999
figure -seems a very ambitious goal. (paragraph 69).
31. The Government rejects the suggestion that the
Home Office has been dilatory in enforcing the removal of people
whose asylum applications have been refused and others who have
gained illegal entry to the United Kingdom. Over 7,600 failed
asylum seekers were removed or departed voluntarily in 1999 and
provisional figures for the whole of 2000 show just under 9,000
asylum removals; both of these figures are records. In addition,
the target to remove 3500 non asylum-seeking offenders has been
significantly exceeded, with provisional figures suggesting that
approximately 6000 will have been removed by the end of the financial
year. But the Government is aware that there is more that needs
to be done to meet the ambitious targets of removing 12,000 failed
asylum seekers in 2000/2001, and 30,000 in 2001/02, moving to
33,000 in 2002/03, and to 37,000 in 2003/04. The targets from
2001-2 onwards include dependants, which gives a more accurate
picture of the numbers being removed from the UK as a result of
refused asylum applications. The target represents a major increase
in removals, to a level not previously contemplated. Resources
for removals and detention are being correspondingly increased.
Provisional figures also show that, for the year 2000, an overall
total of 46,600 persons were removed from the United Kingdom,
an increase of almost 9,000 over 1999. This figure is made up
of both asylum and non-asylum cases and, unlike those given above,
includes those refused leave to enter at the port of arrival.
32. A scheme is being piloted under which specially
trained immigration officers, using the powers of arrest, search
and seizure provided to immigration officers under the 1999 Immigration
and Asylum Act are tracing and effecting the arrest of immigration
offenders without the assistance of the police. A major expansion
of the immigration detention estate is also being implemented
in order to support the removals programme. This will be used
to house those asylum seekers whose applications have failed and
who have reached the end of the process, those with manifestly
unfounded claims, and those with a history of abusing the immigration
laws. The Government plans to set up a national network of reporting
centres in main population and dispersal areas, with the aim of
ensuring that checks are kept on every applicant until such time
as they are either allowed to stay or removed from the UK. In
addition, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 has allowed for
those found to be in breach of their conditions of leave to enter
or remain to be administratively removed from the United Kingdom,
avoiding the necessity of implementing the long and complicated
33. Other measures that the Government is planning
include the establishment, within each immigration law enforcement
office, of teams to ensure the speedy removal of any families
whose asylum applications have failed, as well as using charter
flights where appropriate to remove groups of a like nationality
to a common destination where the availability of airline seats
It remains to be seen what effect the civil penalty
will have in the medium term in encouraging lorry owners and drivers
to take more care to prevent illegal entry on their vehicles.
We welcome the steps taken by P&O Stena Line at Calais and
Zeebrugge to detect and deter illegal entrants before they board
ferries. It is too early to judge whether those who traffick in
human beings have been deterred or merely displaced to other methods
and routes. We believe the independence of the appeal system for
carriers' liability should be reviewed (paragraph 73).
34. The Government welcomes the Committee's support
for the measures introduced by the Immigration and Asylum Act
1999 to reduce the numbers of people travelling to the UK illegally
concealed in road haulage and other vehicles.
35. Although the civil penalty provisions have been
in force for less than a year, the Government believes that they
have already been instrumental in helping to stem the continuing
rise in clandestine entry that was evident prior to their introduction,
and that they have encouraged all areas of the transport industry
to introduce security measures to counter this traffic, such as
those implemented by P&O Stena Line in Calais and Zeebrugge,
and by the Calais Chamber of Commerce.
36. The Government also welcomes the increased level
of dialogue with the representative bodies of the road haulage
industry, and the encouragement they give to their members to
adopt measures that safeguard their vehicles against unauthorised
37. The Government accepts that there has been some
displacement to other methods and routes of entry, notably onto
rail freight services between Frethun and Dollands Moor. Because
of this the Civil Penalty provisions of the Immigration and Asylum
Act 1999 were extended to rail freight on 1st March 2001.
38. The Government shares the Committee's views on
the importance of collecting penalties where notices of objection
have been considered and rejected. Whilst we hope that outstanding
monies will be quickly paid, we shall not hesitate to take legal
action for the recovery of debt, and indeed have already taken
this course in a number of cases.
39. The Government notes the Committee's recommendation
that the independence of the appeal system for (carrier's liability)
civil penalty should be reviewed. However for the following reasons
we do not intend to change the system in place for the time being.
_ The system
was only recently set in place having been sanctioned by Parliament.
It should be given sufficient time to operate in its present form
before considering whether changes may be needed.
_ The legislation
was drafted with the aim of making the process of objecting to
a penalty notice a simple one that enables persons to show at
an early stage why they should not be liable to a penalty. A penalty
cannot be enforced without Court proceedings, at which stage the
case will be considered in full by an independent tribunal, namely
against the imposition of a penalty are considered impartially
by a separate unit taking into account all of the facts of the
case. This is demonstrated by the fact that in some 10% of the
cases considered so far, the penalty has been withdrawn.
While we have seen some examples of joint working
and heard of improvements in co-operation between the different
border agencies, we are convinced that considerably more should
be done to improve joined-up working between the different government
agencies operating at UK ports. Immediate steps should be taken
to increase the number of cross-postings or secondments between
staff of the different border agencies and sharing of office accommodation
and computer systems to supplement at day-to-day level what is
being done at the level of national management. The Immigration
Service could benefit from a joint national database with Customs
and police to check information within seconds. (paragraph 106).
We recommend that the continuing barriers to effective
data collection and sharing between the border agencies should
be urgently reviewed jointly by Home Office and Treasury (for
Customs) Ministers. The Border Control Working Group should agree
a joint information requirement to avoid duplication of demands
for commercial information from carrying companies (paragraph
We recommend that the differing powers of immigration
officers, customs officers and police officers should be reviewed
jointly by Home Office and Treasury (for Customs) Ministers, with
the aim of providing a common power of examination and achieving
inter-operability between officials working at borders (paragraph
We recommend that existing border control agencies
should be combined into a single frontier force on the basis of
secondment and direct employment, but with clear lines of communication
back to the parent agencies. Pending the creation of a single
frontier force, strategic co-direction of better joint working
should be provided by a ministerial group to which the official
Border Agencies Directors Group should report at least four times
a year (paragraph 109).
40. The Government is always willing to look at methods
by which even closer working relationships between the border
agencies can be achieved and duplication of effort can be avoided.
The report acknowledges the very effective joint working and combined
successful operations already in place. In addition, plans to
increase the number of joint intelligence cells, (referred to
in paragraph 13) are being advanced, with the Immigration Service
working towards at least one such cell being established in each
of its regions. This work is underpinned by the Border Agencies
Working Group, which was established to promote the development
of effective co-operation.
41. To promote better understanding, cross-postings
between the agencies have been effected, including the Director
of the Immigration Service and most recently a middle manager
who has been appointed at Dover both of whom are on secondment
from HM Customs & Excise. There is also a continuing commitment
from each of the agencies to provide staff on secondment to NCIS
to support and develop the multi-agency approach to intelligence.
42. In terms of accommodation, the Immigration Service
is currently leading a study of the extent to which such office
facilities are currently shared by the agencies with a view to
identifying good practice and increasing the level of sharing
at existing and new sites.
43. The report refers to the sharing of computer
systems and of data. The Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 provides
statutory gateways to enable the Immigration and Nationality Directorate
(IND) to share information gained for specified purposes with
chief officers of police, HM Customs & Excise, NCIS and National
Crime Squads. IND also participates in the Inter Departmental
Data Sharing Group, chaired by HM Customs & Excise, which
explores practical opportunities for data sharing across government.
Additionally, the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet
Office is taking forward a project on privacy and data sharing
44. The report recommends inter-operability and a
single frontier force. The government understands the underlying
aim to improve efficiency behind the recommendation, but remains
to be persuaded that a single frontier force would necessarily
bring the benefits being sought. In its evidence of September
2000 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) points to
the cost benefits of moving in such a direction being unclear,
and also to the most recent review carried out on behalf of the
relevant agencies in Jersey, which concluded that cost savings
from unification there were unlikely to be significant. In terms
of effectiveness, each of the agencies has a defined role, supported
by different and complex legal and administrative frameworks.
The current split of responsibilities ensures that each agency's
priorities can be given appropriate focus. For a change of such
magnitude there would need to be clearly identifiable and significant
benefits. The report recognises the disruption which would be
caused by the creation of such a unified body and provides possible
compromise solutions. The government acknowledges that some such
solutions might benefit from more consideration than the time
constraints surrounding this response allow, and is looking to
the relevant departments to take this forward.
The Immigration Service cannot do its job without
modern equipment, both for detection and for identification. There
should be a more active approach both to researching potentially
useful technologies and applying the experience of other countries.
45. The Government recognises the value of modern
technology in the context of immigration control and the need
for a pro-active approach to its research. The Immigration Service
has for several years been seeking techniques for the effective
detection of clandestine illegal entrants hidden inside vehicles
and containers. Until recently, no such technology existed which
was both cost effective and sufficiently reliable for immigration
purposes at ports. The Immigration Service now works closely with
the Police Scientific Development Branch (which evaluates law
enforcement and prison technology), and with other law-enforcement
agencies, both in the UK and abroad.
46. Technical devices are often developed for specific
well-controlled applications and are not easily adapted for continual
use in adverse environments - such as seaports. The intelligent
use of such devices could bring significant benefits (e.g. "heartbeat"
detectors employed on vehicles prior to embarkation to the UK)
but their undirected use would be unlikely to represent an efficient
use of resources. Deployment of such technical devices is currently
the subject of detailed consideration by the Immigration Service.
We recommend that the Government should explore
the possibility of a joint budget for advanced technology projects
for border agencies in the same way as a joint reserve fund has
been arranged for the three departments involved in the criminal
justice system. The border agencies should identify technology
they would like to use, produce specifications for future needs
and encourage companies to develop the necessary equipment for
use in the UK and elsewhere. (paragraph 117).
47. The Government will always look at funding arrangements
to promote development of effective technical solutions. It recognises
the importance of looking beyond departmental boundaries to ensure
that projects and needs are co-ordinated. Departments are already
encouraged to work in partnership and to bid for innovative technology
jointly through funding mechanisms such as the Capital Modernisation
Fund. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate is fully engaged
in that process. The Immigration Service works in co-operation
with manufacturers and research organisations such as the Police
Scientific Development Branch and the Defence Evaluation and Research
48. The Immigration Service is currently examining
the scope for deployment of technology to assist in detection
of concealed persons in cross Channel transport. Detailed consideration
is being given to the deployment of scanners (or alternative technology)
for example, in the British control zone in Coquelles and, subject
to agreement with partners, in Nord Pas de Calais. The border
agencies are working together to develop a protocol on access
to x-ray scanners.
49. The Immigration Service and Customs and Excise
also participate in the Simplifying Passenger Travel Interest
Group (SPT). The Immigration Service has a place on the SPT Board
as a representative of the control authorities working group.
SPT is a joint initiative of a number of organisations representing
airlines, airports, control authorities, passengers and broad
government interests to improve passenger satisfaction and ensure
that growth in air travel is not handicapped by congestion and
delay in passenger handling. The SPT vision statement is reproduced
below. Technology suppliers, primarily operating in the biometric
field, are also part of the initiative.
50. The SPT group has recently completed a sectoral
analysis of passenger movement from three perspectives: airports,
airlines and control authorities. It is now moving forward to
consider practical application of the theoretical process analysis
through a series of pilot projects. In support of this, the United
Kingdom has recently formed a regional sub group consisting of
BAA, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and the Immigration
Service to consider, in conjunction with appropriate technology
suppliers, the feasibility of conducting a trial in the UK later
this year using technology to expedite the arrivals process on
a selected group of low risk passengers.
- The SPT vision
"Passengers, equipped with a multi functional
smart card (or other device) including a biometric ID, provide
information in a "one stop" check process which, together
with other information generated from the journey and shared between
all involved parties, would facilitate subsequent processing and
allow control to be effected on a risk assessment basis."
The lack of sufficient information and communications
technology in the Immigration Service should be addressed urgently.
The under-investment in such technology has undoubtedly caused
difficulties in maintaining effective border controls (paragraph
51. The Government recognises the need for effective
use of information and communication technology in the Immigration
Service. Considerable progress has been made recently in this
area with POISE, the Home Office Corporate IT system, having been
made available to 3450 Immigration Service staff by the end of
February 2001. Access to POISE for all IS staff is targeted for
the end of 2001. POISE allows staff access to email and more modern
IT tools, and now also provides access to Immigration Service
52. The Warnings Index computer system is the primary
tool for providing information to staff operating the immigration
entry control as well as overseas in visa issuing offices. Work
is ongoing to redevelop this system. Currently all IS staff at
control points have access to the Warnings Index.
53. CCTV at ports is currently a mixture of systems
installed at different stages to meet individual user requirements.
The control authorities have agreed a user specification for an
integrated CCTV system at ports, and proposals for taking the
issue forward are currently under consideration.
We recommend that, as progressively a higher proportion
of UK passports are in the new (post 1998) format, the Passport
Application Support System should be made available at ports to
allow the Immigration Service to call up the original photograph
submitted with a UK passport as a protection against passport
forgery. (paragraph 124).
54. The Government recognises the benefits of the
availability of such technology at ports of entry. The Immigration
Service National Forgery Section (ISNFS) is currently negotiating
with the United Kingdom Passport Agency (UKPA) the possibility
of installing PASS at all major ports of arrival and the cost
and practical installation implications are being explored. United
Kingdom passport abuse is a serious problem and although the new
British passport is proving to be very secure, some examples of
forgery inevitably occur. The Government believes that it is important
to use all available tools not only in anticipation of future
fraud but also to assist in countering existing abuse of older
style United Kingdom passports.
55. The PASS system is installed at the Immigration
Service National Forgery Section and is already proving an invaluable
checking source for enquiries about UK passports. The scope of
the system goes beyond simple verification of new style United
Kingdom passports. ISNFS and UKPA are currently looking at ways
to broaden the scope of the system and data contained on it to
make it even more valuable in the fight against abuse of all types
of United Kingdom passport.
The United Kingdom should continue its long and
honourable tradition of giving asylum to those genuinely escaping
persecution. This responsibility should be shared, as now, with
other democracies (paragraph 154).
56. The Government agrees with this recommendation.
It remains committed to the principles of the 1951 Convention,
as reaffirmed by EU Member States at the Special European Council
in Tampere in October 1999. The Government also agrees that the
responsibility for providing asylum to those who are genuinely
escaping persecution should continue to be shared with other democracies.
The Home Secretary 's speech to the European Conference on Asylum
in Lisbon in June 2000 set out a range of proposals aimed at achieving
a better, more effectively managed international protection regime.
The Home Secretary's speeches in Lisbon last June, and also more
recently to the IPPR on 6 February 2001, emphasised the need for
all EU States to work collectively to help achieve this.
Most important of all, there should be international
action led by EU countries to support countries near areas of
conflict in accommodating refugees. (Paragraph 155).
57. The Government agrees that the balance of effort
between spending in the regions of origin, and spending on assessing
claims in receiving countries, is currently wrong, and this is
something which it is seeking to address. The majority of the
world's refugees live in areas neighbouring their homelands, and
it follows that the main focus of the international community's
protection efforts should be on these areas. The idea that EU
and other developed countries should invest more in accommodating
refugees in the regions of origin is one of the package of long-term
measures that the Home Secretary proposed at Lisbon in June 2000,
and reiterated in his IPPR speech in February. This is one of
the issues, which will be looked at as part of UNHCR's global
consultations on international protection. The UK is participating
fully in these consultations, which provide an opportunity to
discuss these ideas and issues with international partners, including
UNHCR, and countries which host the majority of the world's refugees.
Improving the speed and quality of the asylum
decision-making process should ease some of the problems associated
with the operation of the 1951 Convention. Rather than changing
the 1951 Convention, action within the European Union presents
the most immediate international prospect of the UK meeting its
obligations to those seeking asylum in a more efficient way. The
Dublin Convention should be revised as soon as possible. The basic
principle should be that asylum applications should be made in
the first EU country reached. Any subsequent EU country to which
the applicant travels should have the right to insist that the
application for asylum be made in the previous country, except
in those cases where the applicant has valid grounds, such as
a visa or immediate family already settled, for making the application
in the subsequent country. There should be no need for the Red
Cross centre at Sangatte to house hundreds of people near Calais
as a base for making repeated attempts to enter the UK (paragraph
58. The Government agrees with the Committee's view
that the Dublin Convention should be revised as soon as possible,
as it is not working as it should and has taken the lead in pressing
for action within the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council. The
Dublin procedures are often slow and cumbersome and are not delivering
59. Article 63 of the Treaty of Amsterdam requires
the adoption of First Pillar measures in the field of asylum,
including a new mechanism for determining which Member State is
responsible for consideration of an application for asylum. This
mechanism will replace the Dublin Convention. The Commission is
expected to produce a draft proposal for this measure in the spring,
under the current Swedish Presidency. EU-wide discussions on the
successor to Dublin will then begin in earnest. The Government
welcomes the Committee's view on the scope of any new system and
will give further careful consideration to the points made in
the context of the negotiations for the replacement of the Dublin
The 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees
should be updated to reflect changes over the past fifty years.
We recognise that this cannot be done in the short-term but, given
the unrelenting pressure, we do think that the way the 1951 Convention
is interpreted in modern circumstances needs to be clarified urgently.
In particular we ask whether people fleeing persecution in their
own country should be found refuge in nearby safe countries rather
than in countries far away. The most immediate task is to improve
the procedures for handling refugees, in line with the Home Secretary's
Lisbon proposals, in terms of swift identification of genuine
refugees, treatment of refugee and asylum issues in the regions
where they occur, examining the factors which cause migration
and the EU categorising other countries according to the level
of persecution or safety (paragraph 157).
60. The Government does not believe that rewriting
the 1951 Convention is a practical proposition. We are fully committed
to its principles, but we agree that measures need to be taken
to ensure that the Convention can operate effectively in today's
world, which is much changed from the world in which the Convention
was framed. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) is currently carrying out a process of global consultations
in this anniversary year of the Convention. The Government is
contributing to these consultations, which seek, among other things,
to identify problems and gaps with the operation of the Convention.
The UK and other like-minded countries are making sure that concerns
such as those expressed in this recommendation are fed into the
61. Procedures for handling asylum applications are
the subject of a draft EU Directive drawn up as required by the
Treaty of Amsterdam. This Directive is part of work towards establishing
minimum standards for EU asylum processes and procedures, and
ultimately establishing a common European asylum system. This
is the context within which the government is developing the proposals
outlined by the Home Secretary at Lisbon.
62. In terms of swifter procedures for handling asylum
applications, IND is on course to meet the target (set out in
the 1998 White Paper) of making most initial decisions in new
substantive asylum applications within 2 months by April this
year. This is more ambitious than envisaged by the draft Directive
63. The Home Office is currently conducting three
research projects, which address the need for greater understanding
of why individuals seek asylum in the UK. More details are included
in the response to recommendation number 1 above.
64. The Home Secretary would also like to take this
opportunity to correct an error which was made during the oral
evidence session with him on 7 November 2000, and which was reproduced
as section 142 of the report. Reference was made to "a gentleman's
agreement between France and Belgium which ended in 1997".
In fact this was incorrect. There has never been a gentlemen's
agreement with Belgium, although one has existed with France since
April 1995. For the removal of asylum seekers it was superseded
by the provisions of the Dublin Convention, which came into force
in the UK on 1 September 1997.
Suggestion- paragraph 87
We therefore suggest that the Government consider
a fundamental review - across all Departments - of the case for
and against the introduction of an entitlement card system. Any
such review should specifically address the issue as to whether
there are potential benefits which could accrue from the introduction
of some sort of entitlement card system without undermining individual
or good race relations. It would need to consult a whole range
of organisations, including those involved with community and
race relations as well as individual liberty, for the reasons
outlined above. It should also be borne in mind that criminal
gangs involved in illegal immigration would no doubt try to produce
fake or bogus cards.
65. The Government recognises the arguments - in
terms of the prevention of fraud and related crime - for the introduction
of a system of entitlement cards, which might be used to access
a range of Government services. But it has identified some significant
drawbacks with this type of scheme which are summarised below.
It therefore remains unpersuaded that there would be benefit in
a review of the kind proposed.
66. Security. The suggested range of Government
services that would be accessed by the proposed entitlement cards
is so great that the cards would need a large data storage capacity
that would require encryption technology such as integrated circuits
(chips) or optical stripes. Comprehensive data sharing arrangements
would also be required between all Departments controlling services
accessed by the entitlement card and with the card- issuing Department,
a very complex task.
67. As it would be the gateway to a range of services
an entitlement card would carry the potential for considerable
fraud. It would therefore require an optimum level of security,
at all stages. Registration would need to be a most thorough process,
involving stringent verification checks on the applicant's eligibility,
not only in respect of identity but also of entitlement to each
of the Government (or other) services offered. At the same time
a quick and reliable issue/replacement system would be essential
given that individuals would be dependent on the cards for benefits
and services. At the delivery stage the only certain means of
enhancing security would be the inclusion of a combination of
one or more biometric verification features such as machine checkable
facial image, iris recognition or fingerprint. But the technology
in this area is complex and universally agreed standards of verification
are not yet available.
68. Civil liberties. The Government believes
that a card of this kind would raise issues of public acceptability,
particularly if access to Government services were dependent on
its production. Any card containing encrypted data and/or biometric
features could result in civil liberties objections even if the
card was only issued on a voluntary basis. There could also be
fears that a voluntary card would not stay voluntary. An entitlement
card that had to be produced for all benefits and services would
risk being seen as a compulsory identity card. ACPO has previously
expressed concerns about the effect of a compulsory identity scheme
on police/ community relations. Entitlement cards could give rise
to similar difficulties, fuelling suspicions about the uses to
which they might be put.
69. Costs. The cost of setting up and maintaining
high security verification, high technology entitlement scheme
would be considerable. This would need to include provision of
card- holder verification technology at all service delivery points.
This would result in a high cost in Government expenditure and/or
a very high registration fee for the customer.
26 March 2001