The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, which received the Royal Assent on 21 July 2009, gives thousands of customs and immigration officers wide ranging new powers, the UK Border Agency has announced.
The Government say the powers are needed to create a new “unified force at the border” and to “crack down on illegal immigration and the smuggling”.
Frontline customs and immigration officers will work together as the ‘UK Border Agency’ (UKBA) with the power to question passengers on immigration and customs matters.
The UKBA said: “this means passengers will face just one primary check point when coming in to the United Kingdom, speeding up their journey”.
More than 3,500 officers have already been trained with the skills to carry out passport and customs checks since the creation of the UK Border Agency in April 2008.
On 5 August, 4,500 HM Revenue and Customs staff will formally become part of the UK Border Agency.
Since April 2008, The UKBA has:
- stopped over 30,000 individual attempts by illegal migrants to get into Britain through France and Belgium;
- stopped over 12,900 dangerous weapons, including firearms, stun guns and knives, reaching the street;
- seized over £379 million worth of illegal drugs; and
- seized in excess of 923 million cigarettes – representing a potential loss of £174 million in tax revenue
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“This is part of the biggest transformation of our border controls in a generation. A unified force at the Border with the powers to carry out customs and immigration checks allows us to continue the crack down on illegal immigration and the smuggling of drugs and weapons.
“I am determined that Britain’s border remains one of the strongest in the world. This Act is an important part of ensuring it stays that way.”
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act also ensures that “migrants who want to become British citizens earn the right to stay by speaking English, paying taxes and obeying the law”, the UKBA said.
The UKBA added:
“It will speed up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens. Under the new system full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents – a route that can take up to ten years.”
Many migrants would argue that they are happy with the current “speed” oor length of time it takes to gain Citizenship – 5 years – rather than 8 years under the new Act.
Mr Woolas added:
“This new Act ensures that those who want to stay earn the right to do so, learn to speak English and play by the rules. Those that don’t will not be allowed to become citizens, making our system both firmer and fairer.
“I want to go further and within the next few weeks we will publish a consultation to examine how the current points based system for economic migrants, which has proved to be an effective and powerful tool for controlling migration, could be applied to citizenship.”
In the next few weeks the Home Office will publish proposals to extend the points based system to citizenship.
The aim is to build on the reforms to citizenship in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, providing even “greater controls over the number of people who want to settle permanently in the United Kingdom”.
The Government said the Act will allow for a more “flexible approach” with the ability to “raise and lower” the threshold depending on the needs of the United Kingdom.
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