Statewatch News online: UK measures announced on immigration control

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Home Office, News Release, 19/09/2001

"Comprehensive measures to further enhance immigration control in the UK were announced by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, today.

Speaking on a visit to the port of Dover to see the work of Immigration Officers first hand, Mr Blunkett said:

"I have made clear my commitment to improving immigration control and procedures in the UK, and at French ports and Coquelles. The enhancement of security checks, identification of clandestine attempts to enter the country, and improved action both to detain and remove those unauthorised to remain in the country, is a further step in the revision of overall immigration and asylum policy which I have promised."

"These measures should be seen in the context of the wider review of nationality and asylum policy, to be announced shortly. These measures, together with those agreed with the French Interior Minister last week, are geared to securing confidence in our border controls and build on procedures undertaken by Jack Straw and Barbara Roche over recent years."

"The agreement I reached, as a result of my meeting last week with Daniel Vaillant, form the beginning of a more extensive process which will see much closer relationships between the UK, the French and our wider EU partners. The measures that will be discussed at an emergency Joint Home Affairs Council in Brussels this Thursday on counter-terrorism activity, will be complemented by the improved and enhanced border controls which we in Britain are able to provide, and which would not be in place were we to join the Schengen Protocol."

"As I have said before this is not just a problem limited to Britain or to our relationship with France but it is a global issue of international mobility, which the uncertainties created by the horrific attack on the United States last week, will accelerate."

"However, I appreciate that people here in Britain look to me to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to enhance current measures. That is why I am announcing today further checks and surveillance measures:

New measures announced are:

· The purchase of five mobile x/gamma ray scanners for use by the Immigration Service, to detect clandestine entrants. Additionally, co-use of scanners used by HM Customs for other purposes have been agreed. The scanners will be placed initially at Dover and Coquelles but will be rapidly extended to other points of entry.
· Introduction of CCTV for the Immigration Service at Heathrow Airport - building on work already undertaken at Gatwick - to monitor passengers as they disembark from incoming flights. This will provide, in the medium term, the potential for phasing in other imaging services which will be of value in anti-terrorist as well as immigration control measures.
· Proposal to implement the civil penalty on Eurotunnel - in line with other freight carriers.
· A new Protocol between the Immigration Service and the Police Service, to step up the removal effort of those illegal immigrants or failed asylum seekers no longer entitled to remain in Britain.

Pilots continue on:

· Trials of new heartbeat sensors at Dover and Coquelles. The sensors work by placing up to 4 brass sensors, connected to a simple touch screen computer, on the frame of a stationary vehicle; the system is capable of detecting a heartbeat (human, animal, bird etc) inside the vehicle by the movement the heartbeat has on the vehicle.
· Analysis of passive millimetric wave imaging which uses thermal imaging techniques to detect radiation naturally emitted from objects. Although it can only be used for soft-sided vehicles, it works when the vehicle is moving. Eurotunnel are operating the system at Coquelles and we will be looking to use it for the Immigration Service.

Work continues on:

· Enhanced support for Eurotunnel by the deployment of additional immigration officers as part of the agreement with the French Government.
· Enhanced advice and security support to Eurotunnel offered by the UK Government in conjunction with measures already announced by Eurotunnel themselves.
· The development of a holding centre (accommodating up to 60 would-be illegal immigrants breaching security at Coquelles), facilitating the commitment of the French Authorities to take appropriate legal action by those trespassing or committing damage within the Coquelles terminal.
· Facilitation of measures taken by the French to avoid 'local ticketing' from Paris to Calais and immigration checks on all those using Eurostar for this journey or joining the train at Calais (the French have promised to push through the legislation this Autumn).
· Almost 3,000 spaces in the immigration detention estate by March next year, an increase from 900, facilitating the new rapid removal system announced in the Commons at the end of June, to facilitate 2,500 removals per month by the Spring.
· More effective data collection and information transfers system leading to a more robust statistical record (see separate press release).

Mr Blunkett said:

"Ministers are working hard on further decisions during the Autumn not only for tackling illegal immigration but for the development of a more broad-based comprehensive nationality and immigration policy, including the development of work permits and a rational system for economic migrants, together with the promised reviews of both the asylum support system and dispersal. We are determined to implement a comprehensive strategy on tackling illegal immigration. And the measures announced today will make a positive impact on immigration and border controls in the UK."

"There is absolutely no room for complacency especially with the heightened tension created by the events of last Tuesday, but it would be quite wrong for anyone to suggest that the problem of illegal immigration has worsened or that the Government has not put in place adequate strategies to deal with clandestine entry into the country. There were 808 clandestine entrants through the Channel Tunnel in July, this fell to 726 in August, a time of heightened interest and attention on the situation on the French coast. Nevertheless, with the steps I have announced today and with the increased pressure for Eurotunnel to complete security measures - with our support - we can do even better."

"Better detection at Coquelles as well as at the Channel Ports within France, will make a difference. I am continuing discussion with the French authorities on the introduction of both the x/gamma ray scanners at the French ports, and the 'heartbeat' scanner once the preliminary piloting has been completed."

"As we develop the availability of equipment we will continue to co-use scanners available to HM Customs and Excise for other purposes and to co-ordinate security and Customs services with the Immigration Service."

"I can further announce today that we will be joining with European partners on very specific new border control arrangements which will target the outer borders of those countries seeking accession to the European Union. This means we can work with EU colleagues to break the supply line and reduce the ease with which would-be migrants reach the French coast."

"Technological advancement continues within the Immigration Service and one example of this is the implementation of Eurodac - the EU automated fingerprint system. The use of fingerprint technology is well underway in the UK and we are working toward Eurodac becoming another tool helping to build a more cohesive asylum system throughout the European community. "

"Finally, the work of the Immigration Service to offer advice and assistance to all airlines in preventing the carriage of inadequately documented passengers to the UK via the Airline Liaison Officer (ALO) network is tremendously important. ALOs are Chief Immigration Officers posted overseas whose work is complemented by colleagues at UK airports. They are specifically tasked with checking passengers from regions of the world where document controls are deemed to be inadequate. In addition to their work in relation to checking-in procedures, ALOs also train airline staff in enhanced forgery awareness techniques. The work of the ALOs is vitally important in the fight against illegal immigration."


Notes to Editors

1. X ray scanners

Announcement made 25 April.
Consultation closed on the 31 August. Copies of which are available on The Home Office website.
The scanners operate through a boom, constructed on the rear of a lorry, which passes over the vehicle to be checked. Additionally, the Immigration Service will also co-use existing equipment operated by HM Customs & Excise for other purposes.

A joint project between the Immigration Service and BAA (British Airports Authority) which aims to provide CCTV coverage of key points in Heathrow. There is the possibility of further access in due course.
These cameras will monitor people once they leave their flight, and will help identify individuals who misuse or "lose" their official documents and then present misleading or false information to officers at immigration control.

3. Civil penalty

The consultation process with Eurotunnel and other interested parties formally ended on 29 August 2001 and, as a result of comments received, a number of changes to the draft Code of Practice have been proposed. Copies available on The Home Office website.

Airlines, ferry operators, road hauliers and other freight train operators are all liable for penalties if they do not take responsibility for putting in place effective processes and measures to prevent people travelling to the UK illegally.

From April 2000 the civil penalty was introduced to road hauliers found with clandestine entrants concealed in their vehicles which means they are liable to £2,000 per person penalty. From March 2001 this was extended to rail freight.

The aim of the civil penalty is to encourage owners, drivers and operators to check their vehicles for would-be clandestine entrants prior to embarking for the UK.

4. Acoustic sensors

Acoustic sensors work on hard sided and soft-sided vehicles/containers and refrigerated units provided all motors are switched off.

The Immigration Service has created an enclosure in Dover for the trial of the scanners.

5. Passive Millimetric Wave Imaging

This will use thermal imaging techniques to detect radiation naturally emitted from objects. The Imager can be located in a large stationary van or similar vehicle and 'scans' the suspect vehicles and container as it moves past.

6. Immigration Officers to Coquelles

Announcement made in meeting with Daniel Vaillant, 13 September 2001, STAT 034/2001

7. Holding centre at Coquelles

Proposals have been agreed with The Immigration Service, Police Aux Frontieres and Eurotunnel to provide a holding area for those trying to illegally enter the British Control Zone.

This holding zone will assist in controlling unauthorised persons at the Coquelles site.

8. Detention Centres

The Government has committed £170 million to increase the number of detention places available. Expansion of the detention estate by 1,500 beds by Spring 2002 for asylum seekers whose applications have failed and who have reached the end of the process; people with manifestly unfounded claims; and those with a history of abusing the immigration laws.

9. Eurodac

This has been operational in the UK since 1993. The Government has spent £3 million to introduce Eurodac in the UK.

Fingerprint technology has an increasing role in the Immigration Service. The mobile units allow immigration officials to check the central database of fingerprints to ascertain within minutes whether someone is working illegally, is an absconder or a failed asylum seeker. The new system will speed up the processing of immigration cases and improve detection of multiple applications.

10. ALOs

Airline Liaison Officers (ALOs) are based in various overseas locations. They are chief immigration officers posted overseas to offer advice and assistance to all airlines in preventing the carriage of inadequately documented passengers to the UK. They train airline staff in UK passport and visa requirements, and also in forgery awareness.

Further information can be found on:

Statewatch News online

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