The UK Border Agency will be split in two, Home Secretary Theresa May has said following an admission that thousands of people were let into the country without appropriate checks.
May informed MPs the UK Border Force would become a separate law-enforcement body with its own distinctive “ethos”, the BBC reported.
She said officials had abandoned rules and gone further than ministers had recommended in relaxing checks.
A policeman, Wiltshire Chief Constable Brian Moore will lead the new border force, rather than a civil servant.
His predecessor, Brodie Clark, was suspended – and then resigned, saying his position was untenable – after claims he relaxed checks beyond what had been authorised by ministers.
The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 following Labour Home Secretary John Reid’s 2006 declaration that the Home Office’s immigration directorate was “not fit for purpose”.
Mrs May made a statement to MPs on an investigation into the agency carried out by John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UKBA.
She said officials had exceeded their remit on several occasions, under the current government and its Labour predecessor.
Among the findings:
- Security checks had been suspended regularly and applied inconsistently since at least 2007
- Checks against the Home Office Warnings Index were not carried out on about 500,000 European Economic Area nationals travelling to the UK on Eurostar services from France
- An operation was carried out at Heathrow Airport in which students from supposedly low-risk countries were allowed to enter the UK even when they did not have the necessary entry clearance
- Secure ID checks were suspended 482 times between June 2010 and November 2011, including 463 times at Heathrow
- Between January and June 2011, prior to the introduction of a pilot which relaxed border checks in specific situations, “the biometric chip reading facility had been deactivated on 14,812 occasions at a number of ports”
Mrs May said: “The Vine report reveals a Border Force that suspended important checks without permission; that spent millions on new technologies but chose not to use them; that was led by managers who did not communicate with their staff; and that sent reports to ministers that were inaccurate, unbalanced and excluded key information.
“The Vine report makes a series of recommendations about how to improve the operation at the border, and I accept them all.”
Mrs May added: “I do not believe the answer to the very significant problems exposed in the Vine Report is just a series of management changes.
“The Border Force needs a whole new management culture. There is no getting away from the fact that UKBA, of which the Border Force is part, has been a troubled organisation since it was founded in 2008.
“From foreign national prisoners to the asylum backlog to the removal of illegal immigrants, it has reacted to a series of problems instead of positively managing its responsibilities.”
On the splitting up of UKBA, Mrs May said that “the extent of the transformational change required – in the agency’s caseworking functions and in the Border Force – is too great for one organisation”.
The Border Force would “become a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general, and accountable directly to ministers”, she added. Source: BBC.
The UK Border Agency, only recently created after John Reid hived the responsibility for immigration from the Home Office, will be split up at the beginning of next month.
To be fair to Theresa May, most of these immigration problems have been inherited from the previous administration which set up the UK Border Agency and introduced the points based system for immigration.
Her government has brought in a raft of changes and restrictions to Tier 1, Post Study Work (PSW) visa, Tier 2 working visas and Tier 4 student visas.
In a bid to reach their net migration targets by 2015 she will be introducing major reforms to the rules on UK settlement or UK naturalisation and indefinite leave to remain including new minimum earnings figure of £31,000 in order to qualify.
Last week the government announced plans to phase out airport ‘IRIS recognition’ machines and in favour of expanding automatic passport scanning gates.
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