Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. One of the non-technological means of detecting illegals on the back of trucks is the use of sniffer dogs, which the Immigration Service and Customs are using. Would it not be an idea as a non-technological approach for your members to have a guard dogs on lorries?
  (Mr Green) I am not sure what the RSPCA would say about every truck having a guard dog and being driven around over great lengths of Europe, but clearly there is a role for dogs and they have been used. Equally, you have to put it in the context that often we are talking about movements of sealed vehicles, with customs seals on them. You do not actually want to open the vehicle up, there are security problems if you start opening the vehicle up. A standard instruction to international drivers has been in the past, "Never open your vehicle" because as soon as you open the back of the vehicle you give rise to other sorts of crime starting to persist. So you are really looking for a solution which can avoid all of those problems. That is why I am saying the sort of equipment which does enable drive-through checks to be done seems to me to be the logical route to go down.


  241. Mr Green, you mentioned that you were talking to the Home Office about putting your own equipment in Calais?
  (Mr Green) The IRU has been actively looking at the installation of equipment within Calais, is talking to the authorities in Calais at this time, in fact there have been developments within the last 48 hours, have there not, Gordon?
  (Mr Linington) Yes. What the IRU have been doing, and indeed the Freight Transport Association have been doing, is talking to a number of security companies which have been interested in running a checking facility as a commercial enterprise. We mentioned earlier that some of those earlier companies have dropped out because they did not get a lot of change from the French authorities, but it seems recently there has been a sea change in the attitude. There are now very active talks going on between the IRU, a security company and the Port of Calais and other French authorities about introducing the type of equipment we have been talking about, which is the equipment used on the Mexican-American border.

  242. I was told you had made an offer to put this equipment on that kind of basis at Folkestone and you got a frosty response from the Home Office.
  (Mr Linington) I am not aware of that. Of course, the whole point is that for this to be effective in terms of the UK's objectives the equipment has to be based outside the UK because part of the objective clearly is to deter immigrants arriving in the UK. Having detection equipment in the ports at the UK, quite apart from the physical difficulties it is going to cause, is rather late given that most of the asylum seekers do not wait to be detected, they are quite happy to jump out and surrender themselves up to the authorities.

  243. Mr Forster, have you had any requests from any of the border agencies to provide them with information on out-going passengers? I do not just mean on a one-off basis, I mean as a regular feature.
  (Mr Forster) Yes, we frequently get requests from the Immigration Service. We have in the past had, "Has this passenger departed on ..."—

  244. No, I do not mean on a one-off basis, looking for Joe or Jean Bloggs. You are saying not as a generality?
  (Mr Forster) Ad hoc requests only.

Mr Linton

  245. Could I ask Mr Linington to describe this equipment used on the US-Mexican border?
  (Mr Linington) I have not actually seen it in operation but, as I understand it, it is equipment which can scan a vehicle in less than a minute. It is a form of x-ray equipment.

  246. Is it portable?
  (Mr Linington) It is fixed equipment but it can be moved to other locations in the port.

Mr Singh

  247. We have heard about the juxtaposed controls at Calais, what benefits would you see to your business and to yours, Mr Green, in terms of extending those types of controls to other countries and other ports and airports in fact?
  (Mr Forster) I think there are two benefits for the carrier and its passengers. One is that pre-clearance is an attractive proposition in that passengers can clear immigration controls before leaving, therefore they avoid any queues on arrival in this country. After a long journey, they are tired, they want to get on, and the last thing they want to do is to queue up and wait to go through immigration, so there is a passenger benefit associated with pre-clearance. The other benefit for the carrier is that it transfers the responsibility to the Immigration Service where we believe the responsibility should lie for deciding who is or is not carried on board aircraft to the UK. So we would wholly support any initiatives in respect of pre-clearance.

  248. Would it affect British Airways that much? Because of carriers' liability the checks that there are at airports now, going out or coming in, are very, very stringent by local foreign authorities, so would it really be of benefit to you to have this?
  (Mr Forster) Is your question, are the departure immigration authorities checking documentation?

  249. Yes, that is right.
  (Mr Forster) In our experience, the departure immigration authorities do not check for forged documents, for example. They may well check if somebody is in possession of documents, but a thorough examination of documents does not normally take place.

  250. I just mention that because I was in Islamabad last September and getting into Islamabad was far easier than getting out of Islamabad and I did not understand why. I thought it was to do with carriers' liability.
  (Mr Forster) I should qualify my statement by saying that it does differ by country. Within the EU, for example, the outbound checks by immigration authorities are pretty fast, whereas at overseas points there is a more thorough examination conducted. I am not convinced though that the authorities in Islamabad, for example, are conducting the checks because of carriers' liability; that is the airline's responsibility, of course.

  251. I thought there must be liaison between the airline and those authorities to ensure stricter control.
  (Mr Forster) Not to my knowledge.

  252. I must say it was a relief to get out of Islamabad because a week later there was a military coup! Mr Green?
  (Mr Green) Responding to your point, clearly there has been a lot of attention on Calais because it is the port through which a large number of movements take place, and as one or two members of the Committee have recognised it is the place where quite a lot of the problems have been seen to the greatest extent, but it clearly is not just an issue of having the right procedures in place in Calais. Indeed, even if one did have the measures in place which properly closed off Calais, the sort of ingenious minds which are at work here would quickly find other places from which to trade and operate. Going back to the weekend, it is right to acknowledge that Zeebrugge has had a better record than Calais in this respect and, regrettably, it was Zeebrugge from which that movement at the weekend took place.

  253. Would juxtaposed controls at Zeebrugge have prevented the tragedy this weekend?
  (Mr Green) I think it is very difficult to comment in too much detail on a situation about which I do not know all the facts. Clearly if a vehicle was subjected to the sort of check that we were describing by way of x-ray facilities, I believe it would have determined there were people on board that vehicle.

  254. Do you welcome the extra security arrangements at the Port of Calais which the port authorities are now implementing?
  (Mr Green) Certainly.

  255. At quite a huge cost to themselves, I think.
  (Mr Green) Absolutely. We certainly have prompted and argued for an improvement in the security arrangements there for many months.

  256. They are very welcome?
  (Mr Green) They are indeed.

Mr Stinchcombe

  257. Mr Forster, you said in answer to a previous question recently that errors were already being made because of the enormous volumes of traffic which organisations had to handle. Air traffic is forecast to increase substantially over the next 15 years, what additional burdens would that place upon the various agencies to look at new strategic ways of resolving this kind of problems and avoiding those kind of errors?
  (Mr Forster) Are you asking what the authorities should be doing?

  258. Yes.
  (Mr Forster) We clearly need to look at the arrival and immigration controls and how they are managed. With volumes set to grow, as we have heard earlier today, immigration halls are only so large and they cannot be extended much more than they are today at our major ports. That is why we welcome the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act that relate to flexibility and passengers being granted entry control at overseas points, so that the processing at ports of entry will hopefully be speeded up to ensure that queues are kept to a minimum.

  259. Is there a need for new technology to be invested in?
  (Mr Forster) I think there is a need for us to examine whether technology can play a part. We have already seen experience in the United States of the INSPASS scheme which uses hand biometrics to speed frequent flyers through controls.

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