Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 13 JUNE 2000
80. Do all ports have joint working arrangements?
(Mr Roberts) Of some sort, yes. All ports that are
permanently staffed in terms of immigration staff will have local
Joint Agency Committees that look at the issues on the ground.
81. There are no significant gaps then?
(Mr Roberts) It works better in some ports than others.
The relationship at an operational level can be dependent on personalities.
It would be misleading for me to say that in every port in the
country the relationship was as good as it is in some places.
At Dover and Harwich it is particularly strong. The Border Agencies
Working Group gives us the mechanism to address these areas where
it needs some improvement.
82. You do not feel there are any obstacles
in your way to achieving the objectives the Working Group has
(Mr Roberts) No.
83. Can I ask you one final question, in terms
of the actual practicalities of getting people together from different
agencies, are you satisfied the facilities are there in terms
of accommodation, shared facilities, and so on, or does that constitute
something of a constraint?
(Mr Roberts) We continually explore sharing facilities
and that does not come without its difficulties, because the three
agencies have different statutory obligations. For example, it
might seem a good idea to share an interview room. If the agency
that is using that interview room for a different purpose, for
example operating under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act,
Customs and police but not the Immigration Service. Wherever possible
we are looking at sharing accommodation.
84. It sounds as though there are legal constraints
in that case. Clearly the police have to operate under a very
specific requirement of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in
order for their evidence to stand up in court, whereas you might
not be under the same constraints.
(Mr Roberts) We recognise that as a tension in looking
at sharing facilities widely.
85. Is there not a limitation in bringing people
together in a combined effort to deal with the problem?
(Mr Roberts) I do not think there is. Each service
is pursuing specific objectives in accordance with its obligations
at the time.
86. Do you have any joint training?
(Mr Roberts) We certainly attend customs training
courses and I know that customs officers attend ours, that applies
to major ports such as Dover, Heathrow and Gatwick.
87. You have quite a bit of cross-posting, whereby
people from one agency are posted into another agency; is that
(Mr Roberts) I do not think we currently have anybody
seconded directly into customs and into the police. As Mr Wilson
pointed out, we are highly visible in NCIS, where there is a multi-agency
approach to intelligence.
88. Which brings us nicely to the point about
a Single Border Agency. Superficially there is some attraction
in putting all of these agencies who have different responsibilities
at ports of entry together. I understand, Mr Roberts, what you
were saying about the different statutory obligations of the agency.
Perhaps one impression I have from meeting some of those agencies
is that there is a risk, anyway, of that being the focus and,
perhaps, the impression and not enough thought is given, when
looking for this, bearing in mind other people are looking for
something else, that it is around the border control area. How
do you look at it, as an advantage or a disadvantage, at least,
in thinking about being a single agency in this area?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Clearly there has been a long debate
about it and it is an issue that bubbles up from time to time.
I think there are great strengths in the present arrangement,
given the joint operations we have just been hearing about, not
least because there are these highly complex areas, the training,
the expertise that is required in particular for the different
jobs. I think the idea that even in the long-term it would be
make a big difference if you brought them altogether is probably
fallacious, to the extent that what you might be doing is creating
a large umbrella and having three departments underneath it, with
the different expertise and different powers under which they
have to operate. If one tore up the statute book and started again
the situation might be rather different in the long term. I want
to add, that with all sorts of challenges in front of us we would
have the prospect of having to reorganise in a fundamental kind
of way: the last thing I should want would be to weaken both the
immigration control and the activity of customs and the police
at the frontier. There is another important angle to this, the
consequences of disentangling from other activities. As far as
IND is concerned, I think, of increasing importance to us is that
through working in relation to asylum, from what happens at the
ports to the caseworking operation, to the support operation,
ultimately to removal and that kind of joint working through the
asylum system, the joint management of cases as they go through,
including with the Lord Chancellor's Department in relation to
asylum appeals, is crucially important to us. If one has to disentangle
that, although it might be superficially attractive to do something
in one organisation on the borders you would have a downside as
well as an upside. I cannot speak for the police service but the
notion of taking the border special branch out of the police is,
I suspect, something the police would have views on as well. I
think there are two dimensions on which one needs to see this,
disentangling as well as reorganisation.
89. There is not a lot of enthusiasm.
(Mr Boys Smith ) Not a lot. As I say, anybody who
comes up with a serious proposal on this, I have no doubt it will
be debated again.
90. We know that tens of thousands of failed
asylum seekers and people whose immigration appeal fails absolutely
have gone to ground in this country and are not traceable, are
not found, are not removed, and nothing can be done. We now hear
the Government has plans for increasing the number removed, can
you tell me what the plans are, and if they are good plans, and
why they have not been introduced earlier?
(Mr Boys Smith ) The Government has made it clear
that it wants to increase the number of people, in particular
asylum seekers, removed. I should add that we already removed
a substantial number of people.
91. How many do you remove a year?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Of non-asylum seekers physically
removed, the majority are turned around at the port.
92. I am talking about those inside the country,
those at midnight tapped on the shoulder.
(Mr Boys Smith ) Last year there was just under 8,000
failed asylum seekers. Our current target is 12,000. There is
gearing-up for a 50 per cent increase of the number that will
be removed in the current year, over a large number of years.
Looking back, the removal business has been the poor relation
of IND and the immigration activity as a whole. As I say, the
Government has announced it wants to increase the number of removals
to 12,000 as against 8,000, that is the first step in that. There
are other plans, you may have seen some references in the media
to that. Those are still working figures, they are not yet finalised.
They do not relate to the current year, they relate to subsequent
93. A proportion of those who have had their
appeals utterly failed all of the way through.
(Mr Boys Smith ) I entirely accept that. Obviously
the number who leave after a failed appeal is not confined to
those who are removed since a significant number, I can acknowledge
we cannot say how many, will remove themselves voluntarily.
94. The real problem over the years has been
the inability of the authorities to have a mechanism to keep a
trace of them.
(Mr Boys Smith ) That is a great difficulty. I would
not put it down to the inability of the authorities, as if there
was something on the plate, so if we were more active and energetic
we could pick up these people, but there is no means of tracking
people at their addresses.
95. We shall watch with interest to see what
figures come forward when you have formed a view about whether
that will have a deterrent effect on potential illegal immigrants
in the future?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I believe it will. We have no well
researched evidence to prove that. It is pretty clear that a number
of factors, again manifesting themselves through the asylum business
at the moment, have caused the United Kingdom to be attractive
over a large number of years. Many of those issues, of course,
were addressed in the recent Act of Parliament for new asylum
support arrangements. It is fair to say that removals is the one
non-statutory measure that also needs addressing and that is what
the Government is doing now.
96. Do you think the introduction of vouchers
might have dampened peoples' enthusiasm to come to this country
to seek asylum?
(Mr Boys Smith ) That is one of the factors. The number
of asylum applicants in April as against March was somewhat down
at a time, on the evidence of previous years, we would have expected
it to go up, in Spring and into the Summer. Whether it is just
vouchers, that is something that I cannot tease out. There are
a number of factors, including dispersal, and the civil penalty
as well, and we cannot disentangle that.
97. If we have more emphasise on removal, what
are the staffing implications? Do you think that is going to affect
the number of staff involved at port control? We would not want
to see a reduction or a shift away there.
(Mr Boys Smith ) Indeed not. The present plans includes
the reinforcement of the Enforcement Directorate as well as the
98. If your current measures are successful
would you like to speculate on pressure points and where they
(Mr Boys Smith ) In terms of the challenges that we
will face I think asylum for the foreseeable future will not disappear,
it will always be a pressure, however effective the removal or
robust support arrangements are, and so on. I do not think asylum
is going to go away. We will face constant pressure, as we described
to Mr Winnick a short time ago, from organised gangs, from clandestines
and through the use of forgery. As I say, the main issues are
there for us to see and the question is that we organise ourselves
adequately and quickly enough to respond to the individual manifestation.
99. Can you give us an indication of some of
the things you are to do to prepare for different methods and
different groups of entry in the future?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I think many of the measures in the
recent Act are a key to that, the United Kingdom-wide application
of the civil penalty and the use of flexibility arrangements so
that we can use our resources at ports much more effectively.
I think we have a lot of the formal measures we need in place
in order to be flexible. Routes, I have no doubt, forgive me,
one member of the Committee referred to the use of small boats,
that that will become more of a pressure and we will have to respond
to that as well, which is a question not only of the deployment
of our staff or, indeed, of police but also of good access to
Mr Malins: Thank you very much, indeed.