Passport exit immigration checks now in force at UK borders and ports

A new scheme is being phased in at UK border crossings, so that UK immigration can collect data on all passengers leaving the country. The information is obtained by staff working for airlines, ferry companies, etc who record details of every traveller leaving on a commercial flight, or by sea or by rail. The data collected is then passed on to the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The government wants the checks to identify individuals who are in the UK illegally. This means that passport and travel details will be transmitted to the Home Office.

The information will then be collated and added to Home Office data, where it can be accessed if the government needs it. All data will be processed in line with the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the common law duty of confidentiality."

Exit checks part of increased UK Immigration enforcement

The government says it has launched the scheme under the 2014 Immigration Act, mainly to monitor immigration and gather data. It's also in place they say to boost national security; ministers say that it enables police and spies to track the activity of known criminals and terrorists across the world.

Security and UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said: "It is important that we have an immigration system that is fair, tackles illegal immigration and cracks down on those who attempt to cheat the system by remaining in the country when they have no right to do so. Exit checks will give us crucial information that confirms a person's exit from the UK."

In an interview with BBC breakfast, former Independent Chief Inspector of UK Borders and Immigration, John Vine, said: "It will allow the government, for the first time in a long time, to obtain information about who is left in Britain."

Up until recently it's not been possible for the government to know who's overstayed their visa and who's remained in the country, and they've not known who's here and who's left."

Mr Vine when Chief Inspector for Immigration was responsible for producing reports which caused a considerable amount of embarrassment to the Home Office and the Government. Many have suggested that he resigned from his position because of disagreements with the Government.

Ferry and Channel Tunnel passengers affected the most

Those travelling by ferry or the Channel Tunnel from Dover will be affected most by the new checks as they have to wait to have their passports scanned before continuing on their journey. Airports will be least affected because airlines will provide information from travel documents in advance, so that hopefully passengers will not notice any increased delay due to the new system of checks.

School coach parties made up of British or European children below the age of 16 will be exempt from the checks. For people travelling between Britain and Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man an alternative system will be put in place.

Alternative arrangements will also be put in place for travellers journeying on small non-scheduled flights or using non-commercial pleasure boats.

Phased introduction of new UK Immigration Exit Check System

For the first month, to minimise disruption, only 25% of passport holders will have their details fully verified in order to ensure they are genuine. After one month, verification checks will rise to 50% and by mid-June it is intended that 100% of those travelling out of the UK will be checked.

Eurotunnel, which is responsible for operating and maintaining the Channel Tunnel, said 100% of travellers would come under the new verification checks system immediately; they feel they are ready to do this having already spent £2.5 million on new systems, and on employing 50 new staff.

UK borders will come to a standstill

John Keefe, Eurotunnel's Public Affairs Directors, warned that UK borders will grind to a halt in the near future because traveller numbers will grow.

He said: "We'll see a 20-25% rise in the number of travellers using the Eurotunnel over the next five years, and a 30% rise in truck traffic. However, the Government's approach to managing the borders will bring them to a standstill - we need smarter technology."

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