An inspection of Gatwick Airport North Terminal revealed a number of concerns about the effectiveness of detection operations, particularly in relation to the conduct of passenger searches and the use of arrest powers, said John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, publishing his inspection report.
The Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:
- decisions to refuse entry to the UK were soundly based and in accordance with the Immigration Rules;
- immigration officers complied with 100% passport swiping against the Home Office Warnings Index; and
- stakeholders were positive about joint working with the Agency.
However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that:
- an examination of search of person records showed that in 71% of cases, the search was neither justified nor proportionate;
- some passengers were arrested even though searches had not revealed any illicit goods;
- analysis of person searches conducted over the last two years revealed persistent differences in the ethnicities of passengers subject to searches;
- some officers were using negative stereotypes to determine which passengers to stop when detecting illicit goods; and
- one in seven people temporarily admitted to the UK did not comply with the conditions imposed or absconded altogether.
John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:
“Gatwick is the UK’s second largest airport dealing with over 30 million passenger journeys a year. At the time of inspection, a number of things were working well such as soundly based decisions to refuse entry to the UK, 100% passport swiping against the Home Office Warnings Index and good joint working with stakeholders.
“I am, however, concerned about the use of search of person powers in detecting illicit goods. Searches were found to be neither justified nor proportionate in a high percentage of the cases sampled; in some instances passengers were also arrested even though searches hadn’t revealed any illicit goods and some searches were conducted without appropriate authorisation.
“I was also very concerned to learn of discriminatory practice in the conduct of detection activity. The extent of any discriminatory practices should be investigated and action taken to ensure officers understand and comply with the Agency’s duties under the Equality Act 2010.
“Finally, the Agency should find out why one in seven people temporarily admitted to the UK from Gatwick North did not comply with the conditions imposed or absconded altogether.”
Download this report as a pdf here: