Fingerprinting illegal immigrants 'best'

2013-08-08 14:03
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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London - Britain should consider fingerprinting the thousands of immigrants caught trying to enter the country illegally every year via France, an independent report on Britain's borders said on Thursday.

Over 8 000 illegal immigrants were caught trying to enter Britain in either vehicles or containers between September 2011 and August 2012.

Independent Commissioner John Vine questioned why their prints were not registered when the information could be used for those who later re-entered Britain applying for asylum.

"I find it surprising that people attempting to enter the UK concealed in freight vehicles, who are discovered by Border Force, are no longer fingerprinted at Calais or Coquelles," he said, referring to two French coastal towns where the Border Force used to fingerprint until 2010.

The Home Office said that fingerprinting was not always of use but would look again at its policy.

"Taking fingerprints didn't actually help to remove people who got to the United Kingdom," immigration minister Mark Harper told the BBC's Today Programme. "But we've accepted ... that it would be appropriate to review our approach."

By-passing checks

With immigration set to be a key issue at the 2015 general election, the Conservative-led government has been ratcheting up efforts to catch illegal immigrants, with spot checks by border staff last month in London and posters in the capital warning illegal immigrants to leave the country.

But illegal immigrants arriving via northern France are still able to by-pass migration checks on some Eurostar train services, the independent report said.

Border force officers only detect many illegal immigrants when they arrive in the London's arrivals terminal at St Pancras station, the end-point of Eurostar journeys between Britain and the continent.

Passengers who board in Brussels with a ticket to Lille are not subject to identity checks as both Belgium and France are part of the European Union's Schengen area, permitting passport-free movement of people within the area. Britain did not sign the Schengen agreement.

The Home Office was criticised by some campaigners for 15 redactions in the report.


"Security concerns may have led to some of the redactions in the report but it is difficult to see this as the reason for all of them," Migration Watch, a group that campaigns for more controls on immigration, said in a statement.

"Transparency has to be the best policy, if only to show that the Home Office has nothing to hide."

The redactions were made in accordance with the law and in consultation with Vine, the Home Office said in a statement.

"[The Home Secretary] is required to redact any material which, if published, would be prejudicial to the interests of national security," it added.

Read more on:    immigrants  |  refugees

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