15 March 2012

Clearly defined minimum standards needed for UK immigration checks

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Immigration Minister Damian Green said yesterday that UK immigration checks with clearly defined minimum standards and exceptions will be introduced in the aftermath of the border fiasco last summer.

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The UKBA was severely criticised by ministers following the border fiasco in summer 2011.

Last year's border fiasco, when UK immigration checks were relaxed during peak times at several borders and resulted in the resignation of the head of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Brodie Clark, has been on an ongoing embarrassment for the Government.

Mr Green was quick to blame the past failures on the previous Labour government and insist the new changes will secure the border.

"We inherited a Border Force that failed to conduct all the checks it should have done," said Mr Green. "Mothballing expensive new technologies and cutting corners to manage queues or other pressures.

"A Border Force where communications between staff and managers were unclear, and where our policy towards key checks was ambiguous or non-existent. This was completely unacceptable.

"That's why, when we discovered that there had been an unauthorised suspension of passenger checks at some ports last summer, action had to be taken. And action was taken."

The Border Force has since been separated from the UKBA and will police the borders under its own authority. The new Border Force will be headed by former Wiltshire Police chief constable Brian Moore.

"The first step in the process to ensuring the Border Force becomes a fully effective law enforcement organisation is to introduce a new operating mandate for the controls it operates at the border," said Mr Green.

"The mandate will make sure that we have more control over operations at the border by clearly setting out the correct level of checks for every type of passenger and all types of goods that cross the UK border in both directions."

Mr Green says these changes will bring "a genuine law enforcement culture to the Border Force for the first time."

Labour's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant claimed last year's border fiasco was a result of Mr Green and Home Secretary Theresa May's own doing.

"The truth is that the experiment he and the Home Secretary engaged in last year led to a significant downgrade in the controls at our borders," said Mr Bryant.

"It was Labour's campaign that exposed the scandal of the Government's incompetence. Indeed, the instructions from the minister and the Home Secretary were so ambiguous that people in the UKBA had no clear idea what was expected of them.

"Green and May have been in post for two years now, it's time they took responsibility for what has happened on their watch."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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