The Home Affairs Committee publishes its final report of the Parliament as part of its ongoing scrutiny into the work of UKVI, Immigration Enforcement, and Border Force. The Report focuses on three areas: the situation in Calais, the introduction of Exit Checks, and Criminal Record Checks of people entering the country.
- We recognise the investment and hard work of Border Force staff at both the Port of Calais and the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles, however this is not stemming the tide of people attempting to come to the UK.
- The situation in Calais will not ease until there is a better response to the security of Europe's southern and eastern border. Migrants continue to put their lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean. Schengen assumed the external border of the EU would be secure but it is not, so free movement means free movement for illegal migrants within the EU. Some reach Calais before encountering any border controls.
- Improvements in security at Calais are welcome, but have to be done in tandem with measures to maintain traffic flow so lorries do not get caught in queues on the road beyond the fenced perimeter. When the lorries join queues and have to stop outside the fence, they are vulnerable to migrants trying to hide inside.
- The joint statement by the UK-French Governments is welcome, particularly those dealing with organised gangs involved in trafficking. People should not be able to profit from exploiting migrants who are placed in such a vulnerable position.
- We do not see how the Government can fulfil its pledge to deliver 100% exit checks by 8 April 2015. To make it happen will require the Government conceding greater exemptions in addition to coachloads of under 16s. The Home Office must publish a definitive list of what is included in the scope of the programme by the time Parliament rises.
Criminal Record checks
- The UK relies on other countries putting information on wanted criminals on databases shared across the EU, so the Home Office can act when such a person tries to enter the country.
- The Warnings Index is over fifteen years old, and considerably overdue to be renewed. While API coverage is good for those entering by air, it is poor for people entering by rail or boat. We are unconvinced that the Home Office's IT systems are fit for purpose given the ever increasing volume of data.
- The Committee also considered the latest set of quarterly immigration statistics provided by UKVI and Immigration Enforcement.
Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said:
"Since March 2014, Border Force have intercepted over 30,000 attempts by migrants to enter the UK illegally through Calais. By the time they reach Calais, it is too late. When Border Force staff catch migrants at the border, they do not process them or take steps to establish identity, they hand them over to the French authorities, who then release them. People traffickers act with impunity in this lucrative trade with an endless supply of customers and minor sanctions when they are caught. The crisis in Calais is a direct result of the soft EU external border in the Southern Mediterranean and the Greek – Turkish border.
The Home Office are asking for exit checks to be carried out by the transport companies, despite not being clear as to what they want and how they are to be carried out. This entire process has given them inadequate time to prepare for their introduction. Four weeks before the deadline there is still no certainty, for example, as to whether closed coach parties will be allowed to cross the Channel without checks. The way this is being introduced has caused confusion, and will lead to delays, traffic queues and congestion on the road network around Folkestone and Dover. We would not be surprised if exceptions, in addition to coachloads of under 16s, are announced before the 8 April.
It is unacceptable that despite high profile cases involving people who come into this country with criminal records only 67% are checked by local forces against ACPO's database. Such a dereliction of duty permits sentences to be given without the courts being aware of previous history. Every single foreign national who has been arrested for a criminal offence in this country must be checked against this database.
At the end of this Parliament it is worth noting that despite all the commitments made by the Government the backlog of cases at the Home Office remains at over a third of a million, larger than the population of Leicester."