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16 Nov 2004 : Column 1431W—continued

Illegal Immigration

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the numbers of illegal entries to the UK by (a) rail, (b) sea and (c) air in each of the last three years. [191268]

Mr. Browne: Information on the ports at which illegal entry is detected is not held centrally and would only be available by examination of individual case-files at disproportionate cost.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for The Home Department what the Government's policy is on how the EU can further develop its policy to fight illegal immigration. [192141]

Mr. Browne: The Government supports work that adds value to the efforts of member states in tackling illegal immigration, an approach we have advocated throughout the on-going negotiations of the new five-year work programme on Justice and Home Affairs.

In the context of these negotiations the UK wants to see: effective exchange of information between all member states; the incorporation of biometrics into visas and EU nationals' passports; and the establishment of the European Border Agency which will take forward high quality risk analysis and co-ordination of member states joint action at the EU external borders. Together these different work strands will enable the EU to adopt a more intelligence-led, outcome focused policy towards managing the external border and combating illegal immigration.

The UK supports the continuing need to work in partnership with third countries to improve the management of migratory flows, addressing the factors that encourage or force people to leave their countries and preventing illegal immigration, including people smuggling and trafficking. This requires a coherent and comprehensive approach, working with source and transit countries and EU and bilateral action.

While we are largely supportive of the way in which EU illegal immigration policy is developing, we do not believe that a case has been made for the need for a European Border Guard. We believe that member states should remain responsible for managing their own borders.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what use the UK makes of the secure web-based platform set up by the EU Commission to assist member states' migration management and to exchange strategic, tactical and operational information concerning illegal migration. [192142]

Mr. Browne: The UK has participated actively in the development of the secure web-based platform set up by the EU Commission to assist member states' migration management and to exchange strategic, tactical and operational information concerning illegal migration—commonly known as the "ICONet". The Immigration and Nationality Directorate Intelligence Service, among others, was asked by the Commission to trial the system. At the moment it cannot handle classified material but the development anticipates that eventually messages up to a "Restricted" level of classification will be handled.
 
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The system allows member states (MS) to notify events such as large scale migration, movements of suspect ships and other information to combat illegal immigration. The system does not permit the exchange of nominal data. Once the information is received it is assessed for intelligence value and then handled according to the Association of Chief Police Officers' standards for intelligence material and disseminated if appropriate. The UK is working with the Commission and other MS to fully develop the "ICONet" as an important resource to combat abuse.

Immigration

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many suspected sham marriages have been reported to his Department by registrars in each of the last 24 months; how many prosecutions have been brought; how many convictions have been obtained; and what penalties have been imposed. [193265]

Mr. Browne: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate has received the following notifications of alleged sham marriages from Register Offices in the last 24 months:
200420032002
Jan364110
Feb420159
Mar458210
Apr386201
May329176
Jun317195
Jul239242
Aug212172
Sep249260
Oct259171
Nov323140
Dec377127

It is not possible to provide a monthly breakdown of results for previous activity to counter marriage abuse as such information has only recently started to be recorded in an easily collated format. However, since April 2002, enforcement teams in London have undertaken a number of operations in respect of marriage abuse with over 240 arrests and over 110 individuals charged with a range of offences, including perjury, deception and conspiracy to defraud the Secretary of State. Sentences passed on individuals taking part in sham marriages have ranged from six to 24 months. In addition, those criminals responsible for organising these marriages have received sentences in excess of 18 months.

The Government are introducing a number of additional measures to protect the integrity of UK marriage ceremonies. These include establishing a joint team of caseworkers and immigration officers to analyse intelligence and follow up reports from Registrars more effectively. In addition, a joint working group between the Home Office and Registrars has been established to share intelligence and enable enforcement efforts to be better targeted.
 
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Legislation has also been introduced to restrict the capacity to authorise marriage involving non-EEA nationals to designated register offices, which will enable us to focus our enforcement efforts into a more concentrated area, and also allow intelligence and expertise on marriage abuse to be built up in these dedicated centres. In addition, a new pre-marriage lawful status eligibility requirement will be introduced for marriages involving non-EEA foreign nationals to further deal with those seeking to circumvent immigration controls by entering into sham marriages. This would give registrars the power to refuse to accept notification of marriage in the absence of a document from the Home Office or an entry clearance for marriage.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans to publish the amended eligibility criteria in relation to the one-off exercise to allow families who have been here for at least three years to stay launched in 2003; and whether he plans to extend the deadline for applications beyond 31 December. [193460]

Mr. Browne: I wrote to right hon. and hon. Members on 19 August and the eligibility criteria are published on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate website (www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk). I will place a copy of the criteria in the Libraries of the House. I have no plans to extend the closing date for applications beyond 31 December 2004. Anyone who thinks they may be eligible should contact the Home Office at PO Box 1541, Croydon CR9 2YS as soon as possible and no later than that date.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people are employed at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. [194375]

Mr. Browne: As of 30 June 2004, there were 14,501 full-time equivalent staff employed at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

Immigration Controls

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reintroduce embarkation controls from non-EU countries. [186552]

Mr. Browne: The Government announced on 28 September that as part of its ambitious long-term e-Borders programme Project Semaphore, the first stage, would be under way by the end of this year. This pilot scheme will use on-line technology and advance passenger information provided by airlines to screen and record individuals as they enter and leave the UK. It is proposed that the e-Borders programme will provide a modern, high-tech replacement for the outdated paper embarkation controls.

Immigration Detention Centres (Chaplaincy Services)

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision has been made to provide full chaplaincy services at immigration detention centres; and if he will make a statement. [194034]


 
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Mr. Browne [holding answer 26 October 2004]: In accordance with the detention centre rules 2001 every immigration removal centre must appoint a manager of religious affairs. The religious affairs manager's task is to facilitate religious observance and the provision of pastoral care for detained persons with the assistance of suitably qualified staff, including ministers of religion. An operating standard on religion, which sets out the minimum requirements expected of removal centres in relation to religious affairs, was issued to all removal centre operators in December 2002. The performance of the religious affairs office in each removal centre is monitored continually.


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