MPs say relaxed UK border checks pilot program should not be scrapped by immigration officials

A breakdown of communication between immigration officials led to the "lighter touch" UK immigration officers used at passport and visa checks last year, a Parliamentary inquiry consisting of MPs (UK members of parliament) has said. The report published this week by the Commons home affairs committee said that a "highly troubling" lack of supervision led to passport and visa controls being relaxed far too frequently. The relaxed immigration controls led to the dismissal of the UK border force chief, Brodie Clark.

The report states they were "shocked" at the number of times the immigration checks were relaxed. They found the immigration checks had been relaxed for health and safety reasons, to avoid a baggage crisis, because there were excessive queues in the arrivals hall, or to avoid a potential delay in flight schedules. In total, the MPs say that passport and visa checks were waived at least 50 times between May and July last summer at Heathrow and other airports.

However, despite these issues, the committee insisted that the pilot scheme that allowed immigration officials the freedom to make risk-based checks at UK ports "appears to have been a success" and "commends the effort to make a more targeted use of staff in this period of staff reductions". So long as the pilot scheme is not overused like it was in May and July last year, the program could still be put in place for immigration officials to use.

The MPs recommended the communication process between the UK Home Office and UK immigration officials be reformed.

The MPs believe the pilot scheme should not be scrapped saying, "It is important that an evidence-based evaluation of the pilot – and the opportunity to learn important lessons – are not abandoned because of a controversy that is to do with failures of management and communication rather than the pilot itself."

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