29. Memorandum submitted by the Public
and Commercial Services Union |
1. The Public and Commercial Services union
(PCS) is the largest civil service trade union with a membership
of over 325,000 working in the civil service and related areas.
PCS is the largest union in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate
(IND) of the Home Office representing over 6,000 members.
2. PCS welcomes the select committee's inquiry,
and is happy to supplement this written submission with oral evidence
or further written evidence.
3. A system of administrative processes,
directed towards fulfilling Aim 6 of the Home Office "a firm,
but fair Immigration Control" have been compromised by setting
of unrealistic targets. The latest incarnation of these is the
"Tipping the Balance" initiative, which puts our members
working in IND under a great deal of pressure.
4. We believe that the numerical focus of
these targets, for a public service making quasi-judicial decisions,
effectively compromises the intention of Aim 6.
5. Also, the intense media interest in immigration
issues makes staff in IND very aware of the public scrutiny of
their actions and setting unrealistic targets only increases the
perception amongst staff of a failure to deliver on the public
6. Whilst we recognise the political pressures
faced by the government we remain strongly committed to a system
based on fairness and transparent long-term policies, rather than
short-term measures that seek to appease the media.
7. PCS members in IND have a long track
record of undertaking their jobs in a professional manner, despite
facing attacks from the media and even politicians.
8. This submission offers constructive commentary
Institutional structure and
of border controls;
E-Borders and biometrics;
Detention policy and conditions;
9. For staff working in the Immigration
Service (IS) the constant change to institutional structures appears
bewildering, and militates against any long-term planning.
10. IS has recently undergone a process
of "realignment" that has involved its division into
two distinct operationsBorder Control & Enforcement
11. This appears to have been a result of
the findings of the Pelham Review, which expressed concern about
the amount of time Immigration Officers were available for operational
12. However, this division is the latest
in a number of restructurings that IS has undergone in the past
10 years. Past restructurings have seen the creation of separate
Ports and Enforcement Directorates, followed by their amalgamation
under a project aimed at creating "oneness".
13. There have also been restructurings,
which have created clear demarcation between London and South
East Operations and the regions. This latter restructuring involved
the creation of a regional headquarters and a whole new tier of
senior management, only for it to be subsumed into a national
structure after a very short period of time.
14. The current demarcation between Borders
& Enforcement and Removals has essentially created two distinct
types of Immigration Officer (IO). Whereas under a single Directorate
an IO would quite often perform both border control and enforcement
duties, the new system no longer allows for such hybridity.
15. PCS are committed to seeing both our
members and the public afforded the highest level of protection
possible during the enforcement of immigration controls and therefore
welcome any measures that enhance the professional capabilities
of staff. However, we are still concerned by the reluctance of
the department to put in place a regulatory framework appropriate
for a 21st Century immigration service.
16. PCS are extremely alarmed over proposals
to privatise certain immigration control functions within the
17. We are currently engaged in a campaign
to oppose legislative proposals [Immigration, Asylum and Nationality
Billclauses 40 and 41] that would allow private contractors
to carry out freight searching duties and also empower them to
apprehend and detain suspected illegal entrants.
18. The union has been informed by IS managers
that private contractors will initially be used for additional
freight searching activities in the juxtaposed control areas in
northern France. However, the legislation gives scope for all
freight searching operations, in France and the UK, to be carried
out by private contractors.
19. Senior managers in the IS have been
unable to give an assurance that private contractors will not
be more widely deployed on immigration control, with "value
for money" cited as a major consideration behind their usage.
Ministers have been slightly more reassuring, stating that this
is not what is currently envisaged and that private contractors
will not be deployed in the freight lanes, although they have
not made this commitment from the despatch box and we would welcome
the Committee probing further in this area.
20. The union remains concerned that privatisation
of many parts of immigration control may become a reality over
the next few years. If this does happen we believe it would pose
a serious risk to the integrity of our borders and consequently
endanger the security of UK citizens.
21. IOs commitment to their work demonstrates
to management and ministers the high standards to which they operate.
22. The same cannot be said of locally engaged
casual staff, particularly as they are likely to receive lower
wages, have little or no job security and receive less training
for this work.
23. There have already been examples of
contractors failing to conduct searches effectively, for instance
we have evidence of a vehicle being allowed to proceed when a
positive reading had been obtained from detection equipment. IS
civil service staff intervened and removed people from the vehicle.
On another occasion contract staff were observed searching vehicles
without their detection equipment switched on.
24. This lack of professionalism not only
threatens the integrity of our border controls but could also
result in tragic consequences for the clandestines.
25. Many immigration staff recall June 2000
when a group of Chinese clandestines were found dead in a lorry
in Dover. Since that time a far greater number of vehicles are
searched and it is important that the professionalism of this
operation is never compromised.
26. PCS can see the attraction to government
of using technology for immigration control. However, we remain
unconvinced about its effectiveness in providing the level of
security currently provided by trained professionals in the IS.
27. We are aware of research that shows
that both iris and face recognition technologies have failed to
establish identities and therefore believe that the use of technology
should remain in support of, rather than as a replacement for
28. PCS strongly believes that no chances
should be taken with the security and integrity of the UK's borders
and that striving for "value for money" must be placed
in the context of national security and the threat posed to the
UK by international terrorism.
29. PCS firmly believes that detention should
only be used as a last resort in asylum and immigration cases.
30. We believe the long-term detention of
people who have not been convicted of a crime contradicts the
commitments given by the Government when signing the Human Rights
31. The union does accept that detention
may be necessary to facilitate the removal of failed asylum seekers,
but would hope that any period of detention does not exceed the
time necessary to effect already set removal directions.
32. The union does not consider it appropriate
to detain asylum seekers whilst they legitimately challenge a
judgement in their case and we have particular concerns about
the detention of families with young children and believe that
this should be avoided wherever possible.
33. PCS has grave concerns about the use
of private security firms in the management and staffing of detention
34. The BBC documentary "Oakington
Uncovered" showed both verbal and physical abuses against
detainees taking place on a regular basis. These abuses were perpetrated
by employees of the private company Global Solutions Limited (GSL),
yet the company still retains contracts within the Home Office.
35. PCS is fundamentally opposed to the
privatisation agenda pursued by the government, especially in
such sensitive areas such as immigration and asylum.
36. The human rights abuses that have been
documented at Oakington should ensure government carefully considers
the past performance of contractors and associated risk factors
prior to sanctioning any further "contracting out" of
the detention estate, or immigration control.
37. PCS would strongly caution the committee
from drawing a direct correlation between the work of our members
and other staff in the IS and the published statistics.
38. We believe that an over-reliance on
statistics and numerically based targets have essentially moved
the organisation away from its key objective of "delivering
a firm but fair immigration policy".
39. It would appear that the IS is increasingly
driven by political imperatives at a particular time, be it "intake
reduction" in 2004 or "tipping the balance" in
40. The targets that complement these particular
initiatives appear to skew the work of the service, hence headline
statistics may proclaim an increase in one area without showing
the impact on other work within the organisation.
41. PCS are determined not to engage in
a "numbers game" on the issue of immigration and asylum.
During the last general election the union was frequently approached
to provide our view on the numbers of failed asylum seekers and
illegal entrants were breaching immigration controls.
42. We believe that engaging in a "numbers
game" will only feed the tabloid frenzy that exists over
asylum and immigration and will do nothing to humanise the debate.
PCS would urge the department and the government to move away
from an obsession over statistics and back to a system that treats
each applicant as an individual entitled to fair treatment.
43. The public expect a fair and consistent
policy of immigration control but also expect that public money
is spent wisely. PCS and our member's look forward to working
with IND to improve immigration control.