Loophole lets passengers into UK illegally

2011-12-08 21:05

London - An administrative loophole allows passengers on the Eurostar train to enter Britain without any passport checks and London is powerless to stop the practice alone, the BBC reported on Thursday.

British border officials trying to weed out suspected offenders at the Brussels train station have been threatened with arrest by Belgian police, it said citing internal government documents and e-mails.

The so-called "Lille loophole" allows passengers using the Eurostar to miss border checks by buying a train ticket from Brussels to Lille in northern France, and then staying on until London.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) operates border controls in the country of departure, so if a passenger buys a ticket from Brussels to London, he goes through passport control.

But if he buys a ticket from Brussels to Lille - both part of the Schengen zone that allows people to cross members' borders without passport checks - he does not.

Because no-one checks whether passengers get off at Lille and because UKBA does not perform checks on board, these passengers can actually get into Britain without having their passport checked, an investigation by BBC Radio found.

UK border officials trying to question suspected offenders at the Brussels train station have been repeatedly threatened by Belgian police, it said.

‘You are now in Schengen’

In one such incident one border official said that after he questioned two passengers who "bore all the hallmarks of Lille loopholers" in April, he was accosted by Belgian police officers.

"This has got to stop, you are not in Britain now, you are in Schengen," he said the Belgian officer shouted.

"If they make a complaint, you will be arrested," he said, referring to the two suspects.

Another UKBA officer warned that British staff were so scared of being arrested by the Belgian police that they "will now turn a blind eye to potential Lille loopholers".

British Immigration Minister Damian Green said the "Lille loophole" could only be closed through negotiations with European countries, and Britain was powerless to act on its own.

"It's one of those things that the British government can't solve on its own... that has to be solved in negotiations and that's what we're now doing," Green said.

He added: "There are strict British immigration controls in place in France and Belgium and we have UK Border Agency officers based at St Pancras (the Eurostar train station in London) to target those we believe are intent on entering Britain illegally.

"We are currently working closely with our Belgian counterparts and Eurostar to resolve this as quickly as possible."

  • Geronimo - 2011-12-08 21:24

    Just another reason why Britain should get out of Europe. Fast.

  • Vivian - 2011-12-08 21:31

    Ha the English think they are sooooo clever, welcome to my world???? Ha ha ha biatches

      Gollum - 2011-12-08 22:15

      What a finely constructed, intelligent and insightful viewpoint you have there sir.

  • Burtfred - 2011-12-08 21:43

    I've recently been on the very train being discussed. I am South African, but I travelled from France (Lille) to London, and never once was asked for my passport.

      Geronimo - 2011-12-08 21:49


  • Geronimo - 2011-12-08 21:51

    Seems a simple problem to fix. Set up a British immigration control at the first stop on mainland Britain. Any offenders then placed on the first train back.

      Pierre - 2011-12-08 22:01

      Yeah, make them go through a second passport check like we do in the airport. If a refugee can catch a boat from Morocco to Spain, they could use this train to get into the UK at the moment.

      Geronimo - 2011-12-08 22:14

      I suspect the cost of a Eurostar ticket will be prohibitive for most. Besides, most get through in lorries anyway, and those few who are unfortunate enough to be 'caught' on the way over are simply dropped back in Calais to try again.

  • Denise - 2011-12-08 22:04

    The next wave of Al Qaeda terrorists operating on British soil might just speak French or Flemish first language. :(

  • Mbeni - 2011-12-09 03:25

    Why English people always think they are the only one who can travel freely to anywhere they want to and other people are not allowed to do so. England now is becoming the worst place to go why do they think people are traveling to UK?

      Geronimo - 2011-12-09 10:53

      Mbeni you clearly don't have a full grasp of the facts. Belgium and France are part of the Euro zone - no passport is required to travel in the Euro zone. So once you're in Europe - say Spain and Italy where most of the African illegals arrive - you're free to travel right up to the British border without question. Ask any of the millions of largely African, middle eastern and sub-continental illegals in Europe where they're headed and I bet you 9 out 10 will tell you they're after the perceived free benefits on offer in Britain. Check out "The Jungle" camp in Calais, thousands queuing up every day to take their chances at getting into Britain at all costs. And most get in. Big problem for the British.

  • Fidel - 2011-12-09 08:12

    People need to stop believing the bull fed to them by Cambridge boys and welfare royals. There is nothing special about the UK anymore and there hasn't been for a heck of a long time. It's not a case of people wanting to become part of the UK. It's a case of a long dead empire waking up and integrating into the world.

      Geronimo - 2011-12-09 10:57

      ...and how much money does Britain still donate to this day to South Africa and much of the rest of Africa? The infrastructure, democratic values and economy (even in the current depressed state) still knock the socks off South Africa's. I wouldn't discredit Britain or the rest of Europe too soon... or else the handouts may stop and then you'd be begging with a bowl again (if you're not already). West is best.

      Yusuf - 2011-12-09 11:20

      Geronimo,what has this article got to do with south africa

      Geronimo - 2011-12-09 11:39

      Yusuf, ask your comrade Fidel. He (or she) was drawing comparisons. Seeing that this is a South African site the answer to your question is pretty obvious, no?

      Fidel - 2011-12-09 11:42

      You know, I didn't mention western aid. As such, it seems you have limited sense of perspective, or your knowledge of foreign aid's history is limited. Development aid is a misnomer. It should be called corruption support. A constant stream of "free" money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do -- it doesn't need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn't have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power. If you need some help concentrating while writing your thesis of a response think of my bitter, contorted, Anglophobe hating face when you get bored - it will stir your senses.

      Geronimo - 2011-12-09 11:51

      Lol Fidel, I have read enough of your responses on here to know that you are not serious. Facetious certainly, but a joker no doubt (just not sure whether you intend the laughs). West is best.

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