Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 13 JUNE 2000
60. The new one but not the old one?
(Mr Wilson) The new one meets all of the minimum standards.
I should say, also, that the minimum standards in the EU document
are to a higher level than ICAO standards.
61. Than which standards?
(Mr Wilson) The International Civil Aviation Organisation
standards, which as a body has issued security standards for travel
document, and the EU document goes further than the ICAO one,
which is the one that most airlines adhere to and the one on which
our own judgments on forgeries with regard to carriers' liability
fines are based. The EU explanatory memorandum lays down a number
of security standards, one of which is that the passport photograph
should not be on the photograph page and it should be digitally
62. Is the old United Kingdom passport easier
or more difficult to forge than the new one?
(Mr Wilson) Since that is now or very soon will become
very much a thing of the past I can safely say it was much easier
to forge than the new one, yes.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
63. One of the disturbing aspects in the paper
which you gave us was the information on organised gangs, it was
very disturbing indeed. You say, "Profits are approaching
drug smuggling levels". You talk about the amount of profit
that can be made, between $12 billion and $30 billion. You say
"migrants pay £1,500 from Romania, £6,000-£9,000
from India to a top rate of £16,000 from China". Then
you go onthis is what I find rather disturbingabout
the pessimism in dealing with such gangs. You say, "The gangs
have infrastructures, communications and surveillance capabilities
far in excess of anything that the law enforcement agencies in
transit or source countries can muster". That is very disturbing,
is it not?
(Mr Boys Smith ) It is disturbing and it is a major
source of challenge to the United Kingdom and other advanced western
countries that receive these migratory pressures. I share the
disquiet. The challenge is for us to operate in a way not just
within IND but in conjunction with the police and other people
in the United Kingdom and other countries, to maximise our chance
through intelligence and advance warning and penetration to get
at these gangs, which is why we have put such a lot of effort
into, for example, our associations with the Nation Criminal Intelligence
Service to put ourselves as far as we possibly could on the front
foot. We will always face sophisticated, wealthy people who are
looking for the chinks, in the same way that customs dealing with
drug trafficking will face practically the same kind of people
or the same people.
64. You have given answers about what can or
hopefully will be done at the end of it all. The impression I
get from this particular paragraph on page 18 of your paper at
the top is that really at the end of it all the law enforcement
agencies simply will not be in a position to deal effectively
with these criminal gangs. Would that be the wrong impression?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I think that is too pessimistic a
65. Your paper is pretty pessimistic.
(Mr Boys Smith ) One tries to be realistic. We have
tried to lay out for the CommitteeI do not want to hide
anything about the challenges we do faceas with other forms
of highly organised crime, I would not want to give the Committee
the impression we will ever be in a position to be confident to
say, "We are on top of it". If I were to give that impression
I would be open to the charge of being complacent. We have put
a lot of resources and sophisticated effort into this, along with
our colleagues in the police service, and so on, and along with
our colleagues in other countries to try and tackle these issues
in the best possible way. Which is why I think the problem must
be seen as an inter-agency problem, not just an Immigration Service
(Mr Wilson) I should add that the problem with law
enforcements capability in this area is in the source and transit
countries, which are mainly developing countries. The break-up
of the Soviet Union has led to some difficulties in that part
of the world simply because whereas once it was impassable it
is now not so. Border controls are still in their infancy and
border guards are still relatively new. Demilitarising the systems
and actually introducing any form of IT in those countries and
on those borders is still some way off. It is the ability of those
agencies in those countries to deal with the problem at source.
That is the greatest challenge to us. From our perspective, yes,
we are expanding our efforts in the National Criminal Intelligence
Service and we are creating a central database for all intelligence
information in NCIS. We are beefing-up the staffing complement
66. "Infrastructure, communication for
surveillance is far in excess of what the law enforcement agencies
in transit or source countries can muster". You believe that
can be overcome.
(Mr Wilson) In time it can be overcome.
67. In time? What time are we talking about?
(Mr Wilson) There are various EU programmes which
are on-going which are giving assistance and development to these
countries in order to develop their infrastructure and administration
and, in particular, their border controls. Each country is very
proud of its own sovereignty and wants to develop efficient border
control, and that is taking some time. At the moment they do not
have the infrastructures that allow proper control, you know,
even fairly minor technology, like mobile phones which the gangs
68. Technology. Once the person illegally comes
here as a result of such gangs would it be right to say they are
subject to extortion? The gangs keep tabs on these people, for
obvious reasons, because once information reaches the Home Office
what happens is it is not just a question of paying sums. Is there
continued extortion once they are here?
(Mr Wilson) I think regrettably that is the case with
some groups and with some organised criminals that is the case.
It is no longer simply a question of paying a fee for transit
and for being smuggled into a country, it also includes something
after having entered the country in terms of employment or representation.
It is also the case that some organised criminals no longer insist
on the fee being paid at the very beginning of the process, which
means that it is paid in stages and that leaves the people here
very vulnerable to all sorts of extortion if they have not paid
or cannot pay on arrival.
69. It also involves prostitution rackets, et
cetera, as well.
(Mr Wilson) Yes.
70. Would you be able to give any sort of estimate
or is it impossible to say, how many people you believe in the
United Kingdom are currently subject to such criminal extortion,
illegal people, any sort of estimate, or subject to constant blackmail?
Is it impossible?
(Mr Wilson) It would be impossible.
71. If you had to give a round figure?
(Mr Wilson) I would not like to be put on the spot.
We are talking about a considerable number of people.
72. Hundreds of thousands?
(Mr Wilson) Possibly less than that, five figures,
Mr Winnick: Thank you very much.
73. What we have been looking at is the success
with which you have tried to combat illegal immigration. Can you
make some sort of guesstimate as to how far you have been able
to prevent people from coming into the country? How far have you
been able to catch them? What proportion of people you do actually
catch represents the total flow? How many are arriving undetected,
can you hazard a guess at that?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I cannot do that. I acknowledge that
one of the major areas of ignorance, and has been the case for
many years, is the size of the illegal population in the country.
Nobody knows. It is an unresearched issue. I hold my hand up and
say, "I cannot give you a figure on that". What we do
know is that, if you like, the pattern of entry keeps on changing.
We know that between countries, we find evidence on the border.
We know, of course, in the last ten years or more it switched
very much into asylum, in the sense that people came here and
claimed asylum, whereas in the past they may have come here, not
necessarily in the large numbers, and not claimed asylum. The
asylum route has opened up. Could I add one point on this context,
I did touch on it very briefly, it also goes back to the questions
that Mr Winnick was asking a moment ago, it is this need to look
at the whole thing in one piece, because the extent to which gangs
will find the United Kingdom attractive is clearly influenced
by a number of factors. One of which will be whether their potential
customers, the people who want to come illegally, find the United
Kingdom more attractive than other countries and the speed of
asylum decisions taken, the extent to which we are able to remove
people, the nature of support that asylum seekers may receive,
all of these are germane, not to avoid Mr Winnick's important
point about tackling gangs. They are very germane to the extent
of the pressures that we face. Again, I do want to emphasise the
totality of the battery of measures that we need to deal with
the issue will manifest itself.
74. Can we look at the question of co-ordination
between the various agencies. Obviously in each port it is not
just yourselves, customs are alongside you, the police in some
cases and the security service, and so on. I gather in 1997 a
Border Agencies Working Group was established, do you feel that
you now have all of the necessary legal framework in place for
you to be able to work together and co-operate as individual agencies
and exchange information?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I think, broadly speaking, we do.
Again, I think it would be complacent and silly of me to suggest
that things can never get better. You have large, complex organisations
working together, touching each other at a whole series of places
around the country. We can always do better and I, for my part,
will always strive to do better.
75. You are not constrained by data protection
(Mr Boys Smith ) That is not a significant issue for
us, subject to anything Mr Roberts would like to add. At the strategic
level you mentioned the Border Agencies Group. At an operational
level, I know you have seen on your visits that is working pretty
satisfactorily and we will strive to make that more effective.
76. We met Steve Harvey at Harwich and it backs
up what he said.
(Mr Boys Smith ) Good.
77. The question that has arisen is you will
get information from carriers which may not be of any interest
to you but could be of interest to the other agencies. To what
extent do you feel yourselves obliged and able to pass on that
information and assist other agencies or is there a sense that
is their responsibility and we have our own job to look after?
(Mr Roberts) We have a statutory gateway between the
Immigration Service and other agencies, the police, customs, NCIS
and the National Crime Squad. That was the result of secondary
legislation that came into force at the end of April.
The statutory gate way is the sharing of information, quite properly,
it is a strict requirement that if we need to collect information
for our purposes we may lawfully share it but the Immigration
Service cannot lawfully collect information on behalf of another
agency that the Immigration Service does not require. If I can
just expand on that, Mr Howarth, we are looking at this over the
next few months, recognising that the need to put intelligence
gathering and sharing in a proper structure, and the actual legislation
has only been available since the end of April. We are looking
at a model we shared with the Committee in our evidence, which
is a structure based on the National Intelligence model, which
will enable us to deal with this difficult issue in a properly
coordinated, monitored and well managed way.
78. It is a question of seeing how long these
new arrangements work as to whether Parliament needs to give you
more powers to obtain and thereby exchange information. Is that
(Mr Roberts) We are content with the powers that Parliament
has given us and we need to implement that. We need to do that
in a carefully and planned way.
79. Given that this has been established since
1997 how do you think that it has come on, has it been a success?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Broadly speaking it has.
(Mr Roberts) It has been very successful. In the past
interagency co-operation was between local arrangements. What
the Border Agencies Working Group enabled us to do in the three
agencies at very senior levels is to have interagency co-operation.
Not only did we have good examples of interagency co-operation
on the groundthe Committee might have seen that at Dover
in respect of our freight searching, and indeed at Harwichit
also gives senior officers the commitment to show that not only
in the Immigration Service but also in the police and Customs
Service to make sure that the message is driven top-down as well
1 Note by witness: The secondary legislation
that came into force in April was the Immigration (Passenger/Information)
Order. Statutory gateways are within the Immigration and Asylum
Act 1999. Back