Government to tighten border controls
LONDON (Reuters) – Immigration officers at airports and harbours will have new powers to arrest people smugglers or criminals under proposals unveiled on Friday aimed at fighting terrorism and curbing illegal immigration.
Foreign nationals living in Britain will also be required to hold an identity card with biometric data such as fingerprints in a bid to crack down on illegal working. The identity card scheme will be rolled out in 2008.
Under the Borders Bill, which must clear parliament, foreign prisoners will also face automatic deportation if they have committed a serious offence, such as crimes against children, terrorism or drugs offences and been sentenced to imprisonment.
“The UK Borders Bill will give immigration officers vital new powers to do their job better, to secure our borders, tackle the traffickers and shut down illegal working,” said Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, unveiling the measures to reporters.
The bill forms part of a range of measures the government plans to announce over coming months to deter illegal immigration.
It comes as the Home Office lurches from one crisis to another.
Last year, then Home Secretary Charles Clarke was forced out of office after it emerged 1,000 foreign prisoners had been released without being considered for deportation.
John Reid took over from Clarke but he has struggled to keep the huge department out of the headlines and is engaged in a sentencing row.
Byrne said the new measures would help the government reduce the number of successful appeals by foreign prisoners against deportation on human rights or asylum grounds.
“We think we will clear those appeals faster with these provisions,” Byrne said.
The Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate will start work in April under the new title of the Border and Immigration Agency and wearing a new uniform.
Byrne also plans to increase the sanctions for businesses that hire illegal foreign workers.