Memorandum by the Immigration Service
PHYSICAL CONTROLS AT UK PORTS OF ENTRY
1.1 The Committee has chosen to examine
this subject at a highly appropriate time as pressure on the immigration
control is at an all-time high and new methods of working are
2.1 The Schengen agreement was a pragmatic
recognition of the impossibility of maintaining effective controls
across land borders. Private discussion with immigration officials
of the participating states reveals that they envy the UK for
its geographical isolation afforded by the Channel.
2.2 Given the numbers of illegal entrants
and asylum applicants detected at Dover, Waterloo International
and as lorry-borne clandestine arrivals, it appears that more
than half of those coming to the UK by irregular means do so via
EU countries. This is the clearest possible evidence that the
external controls promised by the Schengen agreement are ineffective.
2.3 Other EU countries have reacted by restricting
financial and social support for asylum applicants. Any reduction
in UK immigration controls at points of entry would be an invitation
to increased irregular migration.
3. THE EFFECTIVENESS
3.1 The effectiveness of the UK on-entry
immigration control can be demonstrated by the achievement of
removing 92 per cent of non asylum refusal cases. Removal of people
from the UK becomes much more difficult once they have been allowed
to enter, even on a temporary basis, and the difficulty increases
with the passage of time. A major cause of the low number of removals
of failed asylum applicants is a change in personal circumstances,
for example by marriage, during the delay in making a decision.
4. THE IMMIGRATION
4.1 As the measures by which the legislation
will be put into operational effect have yet to be decided we
can only comment on the general concepts.
We welcome the reduction of bureaucracy
in dealing with passengers, but believe that much could have been
achieved, without the need for legislation, had operational staff
been consulted earlier.
We are concerned that there appears
to have been little consultation with those working in the Enforcement
Directorate (responsible for internal immigration control) to
ascertain what information about a passenger's claimed intentions
is worth collecting and preserving.
We note that forgery and impersonation
via the EU channel at ports remains a major means of illegal entry
to the UK and we oppose any moves to downgrade this work from
immigration officer grade or to introduce selective checks.
Given the Race Relations (Amendment)
Act, we are concerned that concepts such as selectivity of examination,
risk assessment, flexibility and deemed leave to enter (ie without
examination on arrival) should be free from stereotyping based
upon perceived national characteristics of immigration abuse.
We are concerned that our members will be left to make these policies
work without direction on how to identify "profile"
passengers without selecting on the basis of minority ethnic origins.
Our view is that every passenger
should be checked in the same way, and that staff numbers should
be made available to allow a proper "hands on" inspection
of all passports.
4.3 Flexibility at small ports.
At smaller ports passengers may be
dealt with remotely. Lacking any new technology, such as video
links, this may be done by telephone and fax. Where this has been
tried in the past it has been found that:
Staff at the home port are not available
to respond when flights arrive at the remote airport.
Forgery examination of documents
is impossible when only a faxed image is available.
Interviews conducted by telephone
are unlikely to reveal information adverse to the passenger.
Passengers do not wait to be dealt
with and airport staff have no power to detain them.
Risk assessment of flights is based
upon historical events when an officer was present rather than
what will happen when the flight is not met. Staff availability
is the major factor in assessing a flight as safe for remote clearance.
4.4 Visas as entry conditions.
As it will remain necessary to inspect
visas to detect forgeries and to speak to passengers to ensure
that circumstances have not changed since issue and to guard against
impersonation, it is not clear that any staff time savings will
We receive regular complaints from
members faced with passengers they consider to be attempting to
enter illegally, but who cannot be refused entry because of poor
visa interviews. We welcome the commitment to improve visa issuing
standards, but consider that this should be achieved before changes
4.5 Passenger information.
Our experience of the information supplied by
carriers is that it can be wildly inaccurate, even as to the nationality
and number of passengers arriving.
4.6 Civil penalties.
The purpose of fines on lorry drivers, and others
bringing clandestine entrants into the UK, must be to ensure that
people are discovered before embarkation on the other side of
the Channel. We would hope that commercial pressure will cause
port authorities to increase security and offer proper checks
before embarkation. New technology in the form of heart beat monitors
and x-ray equipment could make this a realistic prospect.
5.1 Smart Card technology may offer a "do
it yourself" means of passing through immigration controls,
but there are dangers. Once such technology becomes common, criminals
will obtain their own card-issuing equipment and we could face
forgeries indistinguishable from the real thing.
5.2 Forgery detection often occurs only
after an experienced immigration officer identifies that a passenger
is a poor match for the document he holds. For example the holder
of a passport which shows its owner to be a well travelled businessman
should not have trouble completing a landing card. The presence
of an experienced immigration officer will always be required
to oversee the on-entry control no matter how advanced the technology
claims to be.
6.1 The Immigration Service is at present
part of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. The two organisations
have conflicting cultures, the IS providing immediate decisions
face to face and IND making paper based decisions without direct
responsibility for the welfare of applicants. The two organisations
remain in a state of conflict, each struggling to impose its cultural
values on the other. Until the IS obtains a proper higher management
structure of its own and the two organisations recognise their
differences, adopt what is best about the other and find ways
of accommodating each other's needs, there is little prospect
of real progress.
7. THE 1951 CONVENTION
7.1 Article 1 section (2) of the Convention
limited its application to asylum applications resulting from
"events occurring before 1 January 1951 . . ." As the
Convention did not come into force until 21 April 1954 it was
clearly intended to apply to a well defined and limited group
of people who were already refugees as a result of events following
World War II. It was only in 1967 when a short Protocol removed
the date limitation that the Convention became reactivated.
7.2 The Convention requires major attention
to deal with issues such as safe third countries, multiple and
repeat claimants, what constitutes an asylum claim and the responsibilities
of States that have refused applications to make effective arrangements
to return people to their home countries. The central problem
is that the refugees who are in most need often do not have the
freedom of movement or cannot pay to reach the UK to obtain our
8.1 It should be remembered that genuine
refugees pose no problems. Our difficulties are with illegal entrants
who exploit asylum applications as a means to gain entry and will
change to other methods as soon as the asylum system is brought
under control. The emphasis which is being given to the asylum
backlogs should not be at the expense of our controls at ports.
Director of Information and Research
Immigration Service Union
29 March 2000