Chief Inspector’s investigation into border security checks

An investigation into border security checks by John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, found that border checks were suspended on more occasions than the Agency’s senior management and Ministers had assumed and there was a lack of clarity on the level of authorisation required to suspend checks.

The investigation was commissioned by the Home Secretary on 5 November 2011 and presented to the Home Secretary on 7 February 2012. Seventeen airports and seaports were inspected, covering 22 terminals.

 John Vine said:

 “On 5 November 2011, I was commissioned by the Home Secretary to investigate and report on the level of checks operated at ports of entry to the UK. My investigation has sought to establish which checks were in operation, whether any of these were suspended and, if so, on whose authority, and if there has been a potential risk to border security caused by any relaxation of checks.

 “Overall, I found poor communication, poor managerial oversight and a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities. There is an urgent need to establish a new framework of border security checks. This should unambiguously specify the checks that must be carried out at all times and those where there is discretion to suspend checks based on risk or health and safety. There is also a fundamental question of how free the Agency should be to decide its own operational priorities. These are important issues that need to be considered in order to define and agree the boundaries between the Home Office and the Agency.

 “The risk to the border when checks were suspended needs to be kept in perspective. I found that the Warnings Index check, which indicates whether a passenger has previously committed a terrorist, criminal or immigration offence or is of interest to law enforcement agencies was generally carried out consistently. However, I believe that the number of occasions when this check was suspended – over 350 times and noticeably at juxtaposed controls – was too high.

 “Security of the border is paramount. Overall, I found significant room for improvement in this important area of work and I have made 12 recommendations to this effect. Based on the evidence provided in this report, there is much to do in order to provide the assurance that the public and Parliament expect.”

 Download the report as a pdf here:

An investigation into border security checks

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