Ex-UKBA chief criticises UK visa checks

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 23 April 2012

Writing in The Times, Mr Clark said checking every passenger reduced UK immigration staff at border security to 'box tickers and rules followers' rather than being allowed to use their discretion and training to identify potential threats.

He also said checking every passenger, a measure introduced last autumn, was causing extensive delays at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Mr Clark resigned as head of the UKBA last year after being blamed for the Border Fiasco which saw security checks relaxed without prior approval. Mr Clark argues he did not exceed ministerial guidelines and accused Mrs May as using him as a scapegoat; he settled out of court for a sum thought to be in excess of £100,000.

Since his dismissal, Mrs May has split the UKBA into two separate agencies, the UKBA and the UK Border Force, as well as introduced the more stringent checks but Mr Clark, speaking for the first time since his dismissal, says these checks are counter-productive.

"The early journey we took into a more risk-based approach to checking passengers arriving in Britain has been shelved. Instead, we are back to laborious and less effective policy of checking every passenger to a similar level, regardless of whether a particular individual is ever likely to pose a threat.

"It means that sticking to the process becomes the measure of success, not results from checking."

Instead, Mr Clark proposes a three pronged approach to border security which utilises risk assessment combined with new technologies and vigilant staff.

"Only by doing all three do we stand any chance of continuing the progress against criminality and terrorism, particularly when resources are being reduced and the number of goods arriving in the UK is dramatically increasing."

Mr Clark concluded by predicting Mrs May's new measures would be replaced by the original checks before long.

"The political kneejerk reaction that suspended risk-based border controls has undoubtedly made it difficult to reinstate this sensible policy. But nothing is surer - it will be reintroduced."

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