07 November 2011

UK Government under fire for relaxing immigration checks

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Secretary of the UK Home Office Theresa May will face questions in Parliament today over the alleged watering down of UK Border Agency (UKBA) regulation immigration checks.

UK visa

The UK Government is facing criticism over the secret downgrading of immigration and visa checks in July.

The Home Secretary has come under fire for an apparent order from her office in July to quietly downgrade immigration and UK visa checks at entry points in an effort to shorten queues and waiting times at airports and ports.

It is alleged that Immigration Minister Damian Green also told UKBA staff to relax checks on British or European passport holders following the order from the Home Office.

The Home Office has confirmed that its policy since July has been that EU and UK nationals have been given security checks at the discretion of individual UKBA officials rather than as mandatory policy.

UKBA head Brodie Clark was suspended from his position on Saturday pending an investigation into the case. The Daily Telegraph has reported that a "rogue" official within the UKBA may have been "running his own immigration policy".

The news has led to fears that undesirable individuals may have been able to enter the UK in past months including terrorists and criminals. Ms May is due to give an emergency statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, indicating the issue is considered a matter of national security.

Meanwhile, UKBA staff have come forward today testifying that immigration checks were suspended for a number of hours daily since July.

"This has been very frequent throughout the summer," Immigration Service Union spokesperson Lucy Moreton told BBC Radio today.

"One member described it to me as almost a daily occurrence and lasting at least half of each shift.

"As far as staff were aware, this had been ministerially sanctioned," she said.

UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their Life in the UK test.

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