Home Affairs CommitteeLetter from Brian Moore, Director General, UK Border Force, to the Chair of the Committee, 3 May 2012

Thank you for your letter of 30 March 2012 in which you requested information ahead of my evidence session on 22 May. Please find my response to your questions below.

e-Borders

The Committee asked for an update on the rollout of e-Borders to non-canalised traffic, canalised maritime traffic and rail.

Non-canalised Traffic

This category covers General Aviation (GA) and General Maritime (GM).

e- Borders delivered the capability to collect data from GA and GM in April 2012. We have worked with Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to develop the interface for general aviation users and AOPA will start to provide General Aviation Report (GAR’s) shortly.

We will now plan a progressive roll out starting with commercial shipping. The e-Borders programme will continue to engage with the GM sector to ensure that specific concerns that exist within the leisure boating sector are taken into account as part of the rollout.

Canalised Maritime Traffic

Engagement is advanced with a number of maritime carriers in preparation for having the Freight Targeting System (FTS) available for the transmission of data from June 2012. These carriers are already using FTS to transmit freight data to Customs and the e-Borders Programme has sought to build on this capability to provide the industry with a “single window approach” for the transmission of both freight and passenger data. The provision of data from Ferry operators will be achieved through the interface with FTS, which will strip out the Travel Document Information elements and forward them to e-Borders for processing.

Rail

We continue to engage with current and future partners (Eurotunnel, Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn) to ensure their business processes are aligned with the UK’s requirements.

The programme will have developed its capabilities to receive data from the majority of these sectors in 2012, however specific rollout dates are in many cases subject to individual agreement.

It should be noted that the majority of international rail services are at present covered by juxtaposed control arrangements in place in France and Belgium (Paris, Lille, Calais, Coquelles and Brussels) where entry checks are completed in advance of boarding by Border Force officers. In the future this model will not be further expanded to cover new routes introduced following rail liberalisation. For a small number of other Eurostar services departing from stations where there are not juxtaposed controls, (specifically from Marne La Vallee (Disney), seasonal winter ski services from Bourg St Maurice and a summer service from Avignon) entry checks are conducted on arrival in the United Kingdom.

The Committee also asked for information regarding the capability of e-Borders to conduct checks on large numbers of last minute ticket purchases.

The e-Borders checks are conducted by the system in near real time on receipt of data from the carrier which must take place no less than 30 minutes before departure. The system allows matches to be ordered according to the projected arrival time so that the most time critical matches are investigated and, if appropriate, progressed to alerts first. Other than in the case of juxtaposed controls, the NBTC has the time of the journey itself to issue an alert to the port of arrival.

The system makes no assumptions on how many late check ins there are. Matches are ordered and prioritised based on the circumstances at the time and all arrivals at ports in the UK are subject to full checks by a Border Force Officer.

e-gates and IRIS

The Committee asked for details of the e-gates currently in operation and what will happen to the biometric data collected through the IRIS programme. Personal Data from IRIS (including Biometric data) will be permanently deleted within 6 months of the service being decommissioned.

Sixty-three e-gates are currently in operation at 15 terminals, as is shown in the table below. No passengers using false identities or who have been banned from entering the UK have been able to enter the UK using e-gates.

Location

Number of gates

Birmingham

5

Bristol

3

Cardiff

3

Edinburgh

5

East Midlands

5

Gatwick North

5

Gatwick South

5

Heathrow 1

3

Heathrow 3

3

Heathrow 4

3

Heathrow 5

3

Luton

5

Manchester

5

Manchester

5

Stansted

5

Entry checks

The Committee asked for details of the checks Border Force carries out on passengers arriving at UK ports, and for details of any variations from this. Border Force carries out a standard set of checks on passengers arriving at UK ports. This includes:

Identity and nationality checks;

Forgery checks on documents;

Checks against watchlists; and

An assessment of threat to identify vulnerable persons or individuals who may be a criminal, terrorist or immigration threat.

Standard checks also include the following checks applicable to particular cohorts of passengers:

Open biometric chip of passport;

Interview to confirm eligibility for entry;

A Secure ID check; and

Additional checks to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

In addition to these standard checks Border Force officers will also conduct whatever further checks are deemed necessary and appropriate on a case by case basis to protect the border.

The following groups of passengers are subject to checks that vary from the standard checking regime and the differences are summarised below:

Passengers exempt from immigration checks, such as Heads of State, some diplomats and crew in certain circumstances. Checks are confined to the level necessary to establish their identity and that they qualify as exempt.

Members of the Royal Family (HM the Queen is already exempt) and serving members of the Cabinet when travelling on official business. Where notified in advance, they will not be subject to visual or passport checks. Members of their entourage will be subject to standard checks.

Passengers using IRIS gates (usually frequent travellers). These passengers have already undergone an eligibility interview with a Border Force officer and are checked against the watchlists when they apply to be enrolled. When they subsequently enter the UK their iris patterns are read to verify their identity and the watchlist is checked before they are granted entry.

Passengers on cruise ships that start and finish their journey in the UK. Passengers are subject to modified procedures, where vessels are assessed on return and are usually cleared remotely. All passengers are checked against the watchlists.

Passengers arriving via General Aviation or General Maritime (light aircraft or small sea vessels) are subject to a different checking regime.

General aviation arrivals are assessed for risk, using information provided by fax on the General Aviation Report (GAR) and sources of intelligence (such as civil aviation tracking data). The information is then risk assessed to determine whether or not arrivals will be met or cleared remotely. All arrivals are manually checked against the Warnings Index (WI). e-Borders capability to receive data electronically from non-canalised traffic has been in place from late April 2012. This will mean a change from the current reporting format for the General Aviation sector from paper-based to an electronic system. This will improve the quality and accuracy of the data received from this sector and will simplify and bring consistency to the reporting process across the UK. It will also enable the automatic checking of passengers against WI entries, and automatic cross-checking against civil aviation tracking data. This will enable us to identify any aircraft which has not complied with reporting requirements before it lands.

General maritime vessels are monitored and assessed for risk, with a greater emphasis on intelligence to identify wrongdoing and risk. Border Force builds its own intelligence in this sector using resources such as the cutters, but also works with other law enforcement agencies, the public and joint initiatives such as the National Maritime Information Centre to help target resources effectively. Where we identify risks we will either undertake on arrival checks or intervene before a vessel lands. Anyone on board a general maritime vessel who is not an EU national must get a Border Force officer’s permission to enter the UK before landing. The person responsible for the vessel must make sure that anyone requiring immigration clearance (including themselves if appropriate) obtains the necessary permission to enter. Vessels arriving from ports outside the EU also have to notify the authorities.

New Border Force

In her statement to the House on 20 February the Home Secretary made clear that the Border Force needs a whole new management culture. The first step towards this was to create the Border Force as an operational command within the Home Office, separate from the UK Border Agency, with direct accountability to Ministers. The Home Secretary also announced that a new Operating Mandate for Border Control would be implemented which will provide staff with clarity on their roles and responsibilities.

Since becoming interim Director General on 1 March I have emphasised in all my communications with staff, that my intention is to create a Border Force which is a highly competent law enforcement body with a strong chain of command linking our operations and government priorities. 

In practice this has a number of key features:

Ensuring that full comprehensive checks are universally carried out to secure the border. The Operating Mandate which we are developing is critical to delivering this.

I have made clear to all operational managers that it is their responsibility to ensure that staff under their command have been properly briefed about the checks and who can make decisions about suspending them. I will hold individual managers directly to account for this.

I have undertaken a series of face to face meetings across the country and so far 3,750 members of staff have attended 13 meetings at six locations to talk directly to them about our vision, standards and expectations of them during the transition and transformation of the Border Force. This is a key part of my plan to improve and change the culture within the Border Force. Attendance is mandatory for all staff and specific feedback has been sought from all attendees on the learning they have gained at these events. To become a professional law enforcement command within the Home Office I am implementing a transformation programme in which culture change will be a specific strand of work. The transformation programme will continue to build a flexible workforce of highly trained staff where every member of staff is not only capable of dealing with any threat to our border but actively seeks opportunities to gather intelligence on those seeking to do harm. We will do this by ensuring our frontline officers have all the tools of a law enforcement organisation and feel supported by their management in making reasonable decisions in difficult circumstances. In setting a clear framework for Border Force officers on their roles and responsibilities at the border, the Operating Mandate will reinforce the message that managers and staff are to have regular and open lines of communication. We will focus on building our management capability at all levels with the leadership teams being held to account through a range of performance measures including staff surveys. By building a culture of open communication and strong leadership we will build a workforce that is committed and motivated with a positive view of Border Force.

National Crime Agency

The Committee asked for details of how Border Force will work with the Border Policing Command (BPC) in the National Crime Agency.

There is a clear distinction to be made between the roles of the Border Policing Command and Border Force. Border Force will be responsible for entry controls and customs functions at the border. The Border Policing Command will take the lead—bringing a controlling hand to border security—to deliver better, more joined up enforcement activity across all agencies operating in and around the border, including Border Force with a clear focus on serious and organised crime at the border. Border Force will be responsible for sharing intelligence with the BPC. This will enable the BPC to deliver a single, comprehensive picture of the threats to public safety and security that manifest at the border and an agreed view of the ways in which the border is being exploited and what needs addressing. The BPC will be responsible for tasking and co-ordinating Border Force assets (alongside wider NCA, UKBA, law enforcement and other partner assets) to carry out separate or joint operations to tackle the threats, prioritising action, allocating ownership and accountability, to have the greatest impact.

The Border Policing Command is still being designed and will not become fully operational until 2013 so there is not currently an operating model in place. However in the Shadow Border Policing Phase the BPC will work closely with Border Force to collaboratively tackle threats at the border through improved tasking arrangements better intelligence gathering.

As well as driving early improvements in border security, the Shadow Border Policing Command (SBPC) will act as an important proof of concept for the ongoing design work of the BPC and the broader National Crime Agency. The SBPC will begin operating by May 2012 and will be built in tranches until 2013. We will test working practices during this phase to ensure that by 2013 a sound operating model is in place which will govern future joint working with Border Force.

“Lille Loophole”

In your letter to Rob Whiteman dated 30 March 2012 you also asked a number of questions regarding the Lille Loophole. As the responsibility for border controls sits within Border Force, I have provided responses to these questions below.

In Rob Whiteman’s letter of 22 February he set out the steps which the Home Office have taken to deal with this issue which culminated in Eurostar’s decision to suspend the sale of point to point Brussels to Lille tickets other than to regular travellers who hold season tickets. After representation from both the French and the Belgians they resumed sales of tickets later that week but only on three specific services a day.

Given the small number of services which are now vulnerable to “loophole abuse” we are able to target resources on these trains. Upon arrival at Lille, the numbers of Lille tickets sold are reconciled with total disembarkations and the information shared with Border Force. Securitas conduct full ticket checks on passengers before the trains arrive at Calais where those without a valid St. Pancras ticket are instructed to disembark. Additional immigration checks are then conducted by UK Border Force at St Pancras when the trains arrive.

Since this arrangement was put in place, we now provide weekly updates to the Immigration Minister which show that our response to this situation has been successful in significantly reducing numbers of irregular migrants seeking to abuse this route. However, these updates show that this route continues to be targeted by people traffickers and indicates that our caution in putting detailed figures for Lille ticket abuse into the public domain is well founded.

In addition to the day-to-day activity to protect the UK border, officials are in discussions with their Belgian and French counterparts to identify what additional measures might be taken to further secure the route and allow a reopening of certain ticket sales while reducing the impact on genuine travellers. They are also in regular contact with Eurostar to monitor the functioning of the new system and future planning to mitigate abuse of their trains.

The Committee has asked for a breakdown of the number of people discovered trying to enter the UK on the Eurostar without a valid ticket. It is my view that by releasing this information we would be providing potentially useful information to those who seek to evade our immigration controls and facilitate illegal migration. Releasing port specific information gives an insight into our capabilities and operational activity at ports which has the potential to be of interest to those seeking to facilitate illegal migration.

I hope that this information will be of use to you and the Committee ahead of my appearance and that we can have a useful and constructive discussion when I appear in front of you.

Brian Moore
Director General
UK Border Force

May 2012

Prepared 20th July 2012