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Illegal immigrants find loophole to get in to UK on a Eurostar train from Lille straight into London St Pancras | Immigration Matters

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Want to get into the UK illegally – just hop aboard a Eurostar train at Liile and take an easy ride straight into Central London in two hours. And don’t worry about UK Border Agency passport checks at the port, the extremely helpful Belgian Police will arrest British border staff if they dare to question you.

Illegal immigrants could be slipping in to Britain on the Eurostar because of a loophole that allows them to travel without any passport check, the Telegraph reports.

Free movement rules between Belgium and France mean passengers travelling from Brussels to the Eurostar destination Lille do not go through passport control.

But there is nothing to stop them staying on the train to London. Some 300 people were caught trying to do just that in the last year alone.

Full passport checks could now be introduced at St Pancras station in London, where the Eurostar service terminates.

The prospect was raised after Damian Green, the immigration minister, admitted the Government was powerless to close the so-called “Lille loophole” in Brussels without agreement with Belgium.

In an added farce, immigration officers in Brussels have reportedly been threatened with arrest after challenging suspect passengers to Lille.

It comes as the Home Office is still reeling from the scandal that some border checks had been scrapped at airports and ports against the wishes of ministers.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was “astonished” by the “most unsatisfactory” situation, adding: “If a simple railway ticket can give you entry into the UK, this is a cause for real concern.”

The loophole centres on the Schengen agreement signed between a number of European countries, including France and Belgium, which allows people to cross borders without passport checks.

The UK is not in the agreement can therefore check the passports of passengers travelling here.

As a result there are two gates for Eurostar trains in Brussels, one for those going to Lille, which does not have passport checks, and one for the UK, which does.

It means an individual could buy two tickets and then pass through the Lille gate but stay on the train to London without having their passport examined.

In evidence to the home affair committee, Jonathan Sedgwick, international group director of the UK Border Agency, admitted: “It is perfectly possible that people in some circumstances can get through.”

He said in the last year 140 people had been removed from the train at Lille and 160 had been stopped at St Pancras.

Belgian Police assist illegal immigrant to get into the UK

In June, an illegal immigrant was arrested after stepping off a Eurostar train carrying Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who was returning from inspecting border controls in Calais.

The Moroccan man, believed to be in his twenties, was held after UK Border Agency officers made a “sweep” of the train as Mrs May returned to London.

Sporadic passport checks are carried out at St Pancras but Mr Sedgwick signalled they could now become the norm.

Asked if they were to be stepped up here, he said: “We intend to introduce tighter controls overall, yes.”

The move may be the only way to close the gap after Mr Green said rules around Schengen meant changes in Brussels could only be made with negotiation.

He said: “It’s one of those things that the British Government can’t solve on its own … that has to be solved in negotiations and that’s what we’re now doing.

“There are strict British immigration controls in place in France and Belgium and we have UK Border Agency officers based at St Pancras to target those we believe are intent on entering Britain illegally.

“We are currently working closely with our Belgian counterparts and Eurostar to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Border force staff have also been threatened with arrest by the Belgian police for trying to close the loophole, emails seen by BBC Radio 4’s The Report programme showed.

One officer, who tried to question two people suspected of trying to take advantage of the loophole, was told by Belgian police: “This has got to stop, you are not in Britain now, you are in Schengen. If they make a complaint, you will be arrested.”

Another UKBA officer warned that staff were so scared of being arrested by the Belgian police that they “will now turn a blind eye to potential Lille loopholers”. Source: The Telegraph.

BBC Radio 4’s The Report programme investigated this gaping loophole, as apparently no passport checks are made at both Lille and, surprisingly, at the final destination at London St Pancras.

It is common knowledge that Belgium and France are quite happy to allow immigrants who are in their countries illegally (usually with no passport or documents) to pass through to ‘destination UK’ and let the British authorities deal with the problem.

The British border police have been forced to set up their own border checks in France because the French were waving people through the channel tunnel directly from a camp set up close to Calais.

But in this case the Belgian authorities are going much further by knowingly aiding and abetting illegal immigration into an EU partner country.

UK Border Agency officers were threatened with arrest for doing their job because they are in ‘Schengen’? Is Schengen a country now?

Airlines are heavily fined if they carry a visa national passenger into the UK without a visa. Even truck drivers are fined thousands of pounds if an illegal immigrant jumps on the back of his lorry. What will happen to Eurostar?

See also:

UK net migration at record high

Employment restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians extended until end of 2013

EU and non-EU workers take more UK jobs as number of Britons in work plunges

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7 Responses to “Illegal immigrants find loophole to get in to UK on a Eurostar train from Lille straight into London St Pancras”
Read them below or add one

  1. That would seem to be the logical and obvious answer! Maybe they don’t want to spend the money running a full time port and passport checking service?

  2. […] Illegal immigrants find loophole to get in to UK on a Eurostar train from Lille straight into London… […]

  3. […] this month the Telegraph reported that illegal immigrants were slipping in to Britain on the Eurostar because of a loophole that allows them to travel without any passport […]

  4. Pantelis says :

    This problem can easily be solved, istead of having lots of illegal immigrants coming into the UK & living here & working illegaly, It’s so easy to employ immigration officers checking the passports in St Pancras station, This station is same like airports, There are already immigration desks but empty, I don’t know why!!!! Hope someone will read my advise & do something..

  5. The BBC broke the story and do not normally make these things up. There have been hundreds of reports of the French waving through illegal immigrants onto lorries heading down the Channel Tunnel into Folkestone. Why do you think the UK has to send its own border officers into Belgium and France? If they were doing their job and dealing with the problems themselves in their own country, instead of giving it to the UK, the British Government would not have to send officers to do the job for them!
    The Belgian farce goes a step further in that they are actually helping people come to the UK illegally by blocking UK border officals from checking their documents.

  6. Peter Casie Chetty says :

    I have travelled to and from Europe and there is always someone who has been thrown off a coach or a train by the European police. Remember there are many illegal immigrants in England who are being protected by the Members of Parliament here because of the funding they recieve from fronts of terror groups. The MP for the Morden Constituency is protecting a woman who is wanted on charges of being a terrorist.
    You have to look at yourselves before you make this allegations about the Europeans.
    The woman is Adele Balasingham wife of the LTTE terrorist whoi would have been President if the Sri Lankan Government had depended on Tony Blair fighting our war. Get real man.

  7. hi
    iam a international student here doing business management in private college which is a rated,and my visa will finish before my course finishes in feburary and my husband is also here i want to know that if i will extend my visa for the same course will i be able to work or not and could my husband work or not.

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