Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 21



From the intelligence perspective

In recent times, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, disparities in economic development and ethnic and political conflict have led to large-scale population movements throughout the developing world. Accurate figures for illegal immigrants worldwide are difficult to find but the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that the figure could be as high as 30 million and that more than 100 states are now subject to major inward/outward movements. The World Bank estimates that the population in the low-income economies will grow from 1.4 billion in 1995 to 2.2 billion in 2025. Although trade and investment may improve the situation in some source countries, most will not see any significant equalisation of living standards for the foreseeable future.

  Racketeers were quick to spot the market opportunity and moved in with alarming speed. Recent studies, most notably the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the CIREFI European Union Working Group have concluded that "almost all illegal entrants make use of unlawful assistance from facilitators". The gangs have transferred the knowledge, facilities and networks used for smuggling drugs and other commodities to a highly profitable new endeavour. Many actively recruit potential immigrants in source countries, provide escorts and safe houses en route and are increasingly providing support on arrival such as legal advice to lodge asylum applications. Opportunist illegal entry is becoming rarer. The trade is now firmly in the hands of organised crime.

Organised crime

  The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates the profits being made by criminal gangs controlling the illegal migrant flows to the West as $12 billion annually. Sources in the United States put the figure at $30 billion. Sums range from £2,000 to be smuggled from Romania to £16-20,000 from China. Nearly 20,000 people were detected seeking to enter the United Kingdom clandestinely in 1999; an increase from just 10,000 the year before. Detections of clandestine entrants are at record levels. What proportion of the whole they represent is by the nature of the offence unknown. Many illegal entrants are absorbed by their own communities and find irregular employment there. Others assume false identities and find work, ostensibly lawfully. Sections of some industries are now underpinned by illegal labour; the clothing industry, the building trade, agriculture and the hotel, domestic and catering industries all depend on illegal workers.

  The Civil Penalty (Immigration and Asylum Act) and extending the Airline Liaison Officer network will make life more difficult for the organisers. The Civil Penalty has made drivers more vigilant and will certainly bite on opportunists and the smaller, less sophisticated groups. The larger groups may seek alternative methods of entry. The success of Airline Liaison Officers has contributed to the resurgence of clandestine entry but it is not the primary factor. Traffickers have realised that larger profits are to be made by transporting greater numbers overland or by sea where fewer barriers are placed in their path.


  The United Kingdom border is inextricably linked to those of our European neighbours, some of whom continue to issue work permits for low paid work which the indigenous population is unwilling to undertake. Other have run amnesty programmes. Many of those benefiting may choose to come to the United Kingdom if employment prospects are better. Security of the external EU frontier will depend on the ability of the EU-accession countries to control their borders efficiently. Their law enforcement agencies will need help.


  Illegal immigration was once an opportunistic endeavour, small numbers entering clandestinely or by using forged documentation or deception. But since organised crime entered the market place, greed has taken over. Traditional methods of entry at airports are becoming too small-scale, generating insufficient profits for the risk involved. Improved security and the relatively containable environment of airports has led the traffickers into overland routes where larger-scale movements of people is possible. Groups of 50+ are not uncommon. Documentation is not always necessary. Border posts are simply avoided. The United Kingdom remains an attractive destination and its advantages, true or exaggerated are easily communicated through local media or via resident family members. Significantly, it is no longer subject only to the pull factors created by family and tradition. As minority communities grow the culture shock of moving country will diminish. For as long as the gangs seek ever greater profits, illegal immigration will remain a significant threat



  Fraudulent use of travel documents has long been recognised by the UK as a serious threat to the integrity of the immigration control. In the early 1970s the Immigration Service (IS) formed the National Forgery Section (NFS) as a part of the IS Intelligence Unit to act as a centre of expertise in examination of suspect documents and false document detection as well as a centre for gathering and disseminating information on all aspects of travel documents and their abuse. The NFS supports forgery detection capabilities at ports of entry by:

    (i)  conducting a national training programme for false document detection (at basic, intermediate and expert levels);

    (ii)  by ensuring that ports are provided with up-to-date forgery detection equipment capable of checking for document abuse, including abuse of the latest and most sophisticated security safeguards in travel documents;

    (iii)  by providing ports with rapid, up to date information about travel documents and latest instances of travel document abuse and fraud methods in illustrated formats (by both paper and electronic means).

  The nature and scale of the challenge to UK border controls presented by travel document abuse is persistent. Appendix 24 provides forgery detection statistics for ports of entry for the years 1995 to 1999. It is important to note that the majority of false document detections in each of the years shown related to EEA documents. Travel document abuse has long been used by persons who do not qualify for entry to the UK under the Immigration Rules but are nevertheless determined to enter by deception using false documents. The type of documents used by fraudsters is usually targeted at aspects of the immigration control where it is perceived that examination of travel documents and their holders will be least rigorous, and by using documents that are either easy to forge or counterfeit or to obtain by fraudulent means. Statistics also demonstrate, however, that all forms of travel documents (including visas and stamps) from all countries are subject to extensive fraud. High standards of security features in travel documents, as well as security of their storage and issuing processes, are, therefore, as vital as the need for expertise at the control point in detecting document abuse.

  Despite increased preventative measures, such as new visa requirements and an effective network of Airline Liaision Officers, the challenge to the UK border controls of travel document fraud is severe and set to continue. It is essential, that document fraud detection capability is maintained by having highly trained officers supplied with the most up to date forgery detection and document reading equipment capable of machine reading internationally agreed document formats and the latest security features. It is also vital that officers have immediate access at the controls to intelligence data about different types of travel documents and fraud methods. This will enable the UK control to maintain its deterrent effect for forgers and those using fraudulent documents whilst at the same time allowing rapid verification and clearance of the vast majority of bona fide travellers.

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Prepared 31 January 2001