1. The tragic deaths of 58 Chinese people, found
in a lorry at Dover on 19 June 2000, brought into sharp focus
the pressures on the United Kingdom's border controls. There have
been near tragedies on a similar scale in other European countries
in recent years. 2,180
illegal entrants to the UK were identified in May 2000 - nearly
twice as many as in the same month a year before.
The fact that so many people take such risks and try to reach
the UK, and that so many succeed, has caused us to examine the
effectiveness of border controls. The recent increase in the number
of illegal entrants is shown in charts A and B (after paragraph
2. The key questions we have addressed are:
|Why has the demand for asylum in the UK risen? How does this compare with demand in other European countries?|
How effective are current controls at UK borders by the responsible agencies?
Would border controls be enhanced by the creation of a single agency?
What investment is made in the use of modern technology?
Are there more efficient ways of the UK meeting its international obligations to those who apply for asylum?
3. Geography has endowed Great Britain with a natural barrier
between it and other countries; economics has dictated that entry
and departure occurs mainly through major sea and air ports; history
means that there are people living in many parts of the world
who have family links with the UK. Consequently the UK has a very
different approach to its immediate neighbours, most of whom are
now part of the Schengen Convention for free movement of people
4. We decided to conduct this inquiry in February 2000. Written
and oral evidence has been taken from government departments,
port operators, vehicle and passenger carriers and those concerned
with the welfare of refugees and migrants. We are most grateful
to all those who have given evidence. We have visited Dover, Harwich,
Felixstowe and Heathrow in the UK. Elsewhere in Europe, we have
seen the facilities at Calais, on the Czech/German border at Waidhaus,
at Budapest airport and at the port of Algeciras in southern Spain.
To assist us in our inquiries we appointed as our specialist adviser
Angus McIntosh QPM, who was National Co-ordinator of Ports Policing
in the rank of Commander (Assistant Chief Constable) from 1987
to 1998. His wisdom and experience have been an invaluable asset
to our inquiry. The main thrust of our inquiry has been into measures
to detect and deter illegal entrants. This work is largely carried
out by the Immigration Service, part of the Home Office.
|"Regulation of entry to and settlement in the United Kingdom in the interests of social stability and economic growth, and facilitation of travel by United Kingdom citizens." Home Office's Statement of Purpose
5. Border controls are enforced by the Immigration Service.
The Immigration Service is itself part of the larger Immigration
and Nationality Directorate. Until recently the Immigration Service
comprised a Ports Directorate (with about two-thirds of the budget)
and an Enforcement Directorate. They have recently been re-organised
into two regional directorates.
6. Border controls are also maintained for the prevention
of (a) terrorism, (b) smuggling of alcohol and tobacco and (c)
importation of illegal drugs. We have therefore looked in particular
at the work of the Customs and Excise and to a lesser extent the
police. Their approach, methods, organisation and use of technology
have been invaluable comparators in assessing the way the Immigration
Service does its job.
7. One feature of the recent increase in the number of entrants
to the UK is the high proportion seeking asylum as refugees. The
country's acceptance of asylum seekers is governed by the 1951
Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. We have also examined
whether that Convention, drawn up in the aftermath of the Second
World War, is working appropriately in modern circumstances.