Immigration service to track all UK visitors
Matt Weaver and agencies
Tuesday July 25, 2006
Everyone travelling to and from Britain will be counted in and out under a new crackdown on immigration, the home secretary, John Reid, announced today, although the system won't be in place until 2014.
The scheme is part of an overhaul of the scandal-hit immigration service and includes plans for the automatic deportation of foreign prisoners.
Outlining the measures, Mr Reid admitted that “there is no overnight solution”.
“We will extend exit controls in stages based on risk, identify who overstays and count everyone in and out, while avoiding delays to travellers, by 2014,” he said.
He also unveiled new targets for dealing with asylum cases, with a pledge to tackle 90% of cases within six months by 2011, and a series of interim targets.
The plan, which is designed to make the system “fair, efficient, transparent and trusted”, also includes:
a revamped Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) with tougher powers and to be run at arm's length from the Home Office;
uniformed border-control officers;
a doubling of the budget for immigration control by 2010;
forcing foreigners from high-risk countries to have biometric identity cards by 2008;
requiring all non-European nationals to have identity numbers before they can travel to the UK;
introducing tougher penalties for those employing illegal immigrants, including seizing assets;
requiring evidence of nationality during contact with the criminal justice system;
the appointment of a new special envoy to help win agreement with EU and other countries on the return and re-documentation of immigration offenders, and
the appointment of Stuart Hyde, an assistant chief constable with the West Midlands Police, as senior director for enforcement at the IND.
The measures come after Mr Reid's predecessor, Charles Clarke, was forced out of office in May over the system's failure to consider more than 1,000 foreign criminals for deportation.
Since then, the immigration system has been hit by a number of other embarrassing revelations, including the news that five illegal immigrants had turned up to work as cleaners at the IND offices and allegations of “sex for asylum” deals at an immigration processing centre.
Shortly after his appointment, Mr Reid admitted that the immigration system was “not fit for purpose” and had inadequate leadership.
This came after Dave Roberts, the director of enforcement and removals at the IND, told the home affairs select committee he did not have “the faintest idea” how many illegal immigrants were in Britain.
On Sunday, the committee said the immigration system was “clearly inadequate”.
The Liberal Democrats criticised the government's delay in tackling the problems and questioned whether Mr Reid's proposals would provide a solution.
The party's home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, said: “It beggars belief that the government has taken nearly 10 years to sort out the administrative mess of our immigration system.
“We need a comprehensive approach to reform, not merely cosmetic changes.”
The Conservatives also dismissed the plan. The shadow home secretary, David Davis, described the problems linked to immigration as the result of a “policy failure so huge it has overwhelmed the entire system”.
And he criticised the plan for uniformed border officers as a “ludicrous piece of window dressing”.
Mr Davis said: “What is necessary is a properly constituted and powerful border-control police making use of all possible manpower to maximum effect to protect our borders and with it public safety.”
Immigration, asylum and refugees
Immigration, asylum and refugees: archived articles
Home Office: Immigration and Nationality Directorate
Human Rights Watch: refugees
International Committee of the Red Cross: refugees
Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants