Independent Chief Inspector publishes report on countering abuse of the Common Travel Area

John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, has today published three reports focusing on the Agency’s operations in Scotland and Northern Ireland: border operations, countering abuse of the Common Travel Area, and the Agency’s representation at first-tier appeals in Scotland.

Countering abuse of the Common Travel Area

The inspection into how the Scotland and Northern Ireland region counters abuse of the Common Travel Area (CTA) took place between 1 November and 3 December 2010. It focused on the implementation of policy and guidance governing the CTA, joint working and relationships with stakeholders and delivery partners.

At the time of inspection, the Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:

  • generally there were good working relationships with stakeholders, particularly the Garda from the Republic of Ireland;
  • an ongoing operation to counter abuse of the CTA had successfully detected and identified immigration offenders; and
  • no complaints of unfair treatment had been made by passengers at the ports inspected.

However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that:

  • the Agency did not know how many immigration offenders had been arrested but had subsequently failed to report to their local reporting centre;
  • the Agency also did not know if any of the offenders who had failed to report had been recorded as absconders and was unaware of their current location;
  • staff regularly prioritised their activities based on intelligence that was more than two years old;
  • the region had no specific targets to combat the abuse of the CTA;
  • there was no guidance on stop and search operations at CTA ports; and
  • greater internal collaboration between Agency staff was needed.

John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, said:

“This inspection examined how the Scotland and Northern Ireland region of the UK Border Agency was managing the risks associated with the Common Travel Area (CTA) in order to counter abuse.  When a person has been given permission to enter one part of the CTA, they have free movement to all other parts within it. This freedom of movement can be exploited, as people take advantage of the lack of border controls to transit illegally between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

“Given the risks associated with the CTA, I am concerned that staff regularly prioritise their activities on intelligence that is more than two years old. I am also concerned that staff lack confidence in the legality of the powers they are using to counter abuse of the CTA. The UK Border Agency must be satisfied that the practices it employs are lawful.”

“Overall, the Agency needs to improve its operations in controlling the CTA, through improved risk assessments, guidance and policy.”

Download the full report as a pdf here:

Inspection of the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland: Countering Abuse of the Common Travel Area

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