Border controls amiss: communication gap between arms of UKBA

Home Affairs Select Committee's damning report on relaxation of UK border controls without proper authorisation during the summer of 2011 has found lack of communication between the different arms of the UK Border Agency.


The committee concluded that there was a `Lack of communication between the different arms of the UK Border Agency, and the Home Office of which it is part, has once again been responsible for a situation damaging to their reputation.

`Whilst the situation may or may not have been caused by the actions of an individual, a lack of supervision of senior staff at the UK Border Agency allowed the situation to continue.

`The risk-based trial, although not yet fully evaluated, appears to have been a success. The committee commends the effort to make a more targeted use of staff in this period of staff reductions.

`The Home Office Warnings Index Guidance 2007 may be being used inappropriately.  The committee suggest that there ought to be a review of its use and clarifying guidelines should be issued to staff if necessary.

`The committee also says that it believes that the Home Office should make available to the committee certain documents which have been given to the internal inquiries instigated by the Home Office’.

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the committee said: "Border checks carried out at airports and ports in the UK are the final line of defence against those who should be prevented entry.

`The apparent low levels of supervision at the UK Border Agency are highly troubling. The overuse of the HOWI guidelines and the fact that no one appears to have been aware of what was happening demonstrates a lack of oversight and a failure of communication.

`Parliamentary scrutiny is a vital part of UK democracy and the refusal of the Home Office to provide us with several key documents has prevented us from reaching an informed conclusion as to the sequence of events. It is also inconsistent with the Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

`It is time for a root and branch reform of the way in which the Home Office and the UKBA interact. Only by doing this will we ensure this Agency is finally fit for purpose."

Responding, Labour's Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant MP said: “This report is damning. Ministers failed to oversee their own pilot of reduced border checks resulting in a significant fall in those stopped and returned, then kept all official papers from Parliament to make it impossible for the committee to get to the truth.

“It reveals that senior officials were aware for some time of the suspension of border checks, yet the so-called pilot was left to carry on with no oversight from the Immigration Minister or the Home Secretary.

“It shows that the Home Secretary has refused to provide vital official papers to the Select Committee, without which it is difficult for anyone to know the full truth. If Theresa May has nothing to hide, why is she hiding documents?

"It also shows that there was a complete breakdown of proper communication between Ministers, the Home Office and the UKBA.

“The bottom line is that during last summer's border chaos the number of people stopped at the border and turned away went down by 12 per cent compared to the previous summer. Nobody could seriously call that a success. Fewer illegal immigrants were turned away than the previous year.

“Rather the Home Secretary and her Ministers displayed incompetence and poor management. They took their eye off border security during the busiest period of the year, and left Britain unprotected. Their actions since have displayed no interest in accountability, nor in providing answers for the border fiasco they oversaw.”





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