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Adam Smith Inst - Britain's Beleaguered Border Force Stretched To Breaking Point

New study reveals crippling failures in control of Britain’s border leaving high risk travellers unchecked

  • British Border Force in complete disarray after years of neglect
  • Rising passenger numbers straining stretched force to breaking point
  • As many as 4,197 high-risk flights not physically met by Border Force each year
  • Brexit call for tighter controls over immigration must be met
  • Failed reform attempts have cost the taxpayer £1 BILLION
  • UK needs fully revamped computer system to secure borders

Britain’s Border Force has been let down by successive governments and left in a state of complete disarray, according to a new report released by the Adam Smith Institute this morning.
 
Britain’s overrun Border Force is responsible for inspecting and screening around 225 million incoming travelers to the UK each year, from major airports to the smallest sea port, but has not been given the up-to-date equipment it needs to carry out checks on passengers efficiently or securely.

 This has allowed some ‘high-risk’ travelers to enter and leave the country unchecked – including at least one ISIS member. The report reveals that while the Border Force claims to process 99% of high-risk flights, as many as 4,197 of these flights are not actually met by Border Force agents, risk assessed or remotely checked against a security database, as is supposed to happen.
 
While passenger numbers have risen by 20% since 2010, and are expected to rise by a further 43% by 2030, the Border Force’s funding has been slashed. Spending per passenger is down 25% and morale in the Force is at an all-time low, with staff reporting that they do not have the resources needed to do their job properly.
 
The vote for Brexit reflected the public demand for control over UK borders and showed the catastrophic lack of trust in the current system. Having control over the border is not merely a phrase, argues the report – we must know who is coming into the country and have the ability to block them from doing so if the law requires it. The current system is not fit for purpose and some parts of the Border Force’s national security systems are fourteen years out of date.
 
Previous attempts to reform the system have been disastrous failures, estimated to cost the taxpayer in excess of £1 billion. Rather than turning to private firms demonstrating working systems, the Home Office chose the expensive, risky and time-consuming project of designing one in-house, which ultimately failed.
 
The UK needs a fully digitalized system that is future-proof to foreseeable advances in international standards. Biometric passports that contain more data than just written information or inaccurate facial recognition, collected during international travel as standard. This must be accurate, fast and non-invasive such as fingerprint scans.

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute and author of the paper, said:
 
“A successful Border Force needs to do two things: keep people out of the country who should not be allowed in, and do so without causing unnecessary disruption to other passengers. In both these respects the Border Force is not succeeding. Its security systems are out of date, overstretched and failing to cover all passengers adequately. It’s astonishing that potentially thousands of high-risk flights are not being checked properly by the Border Force.
 
“Its target times for vetting inbound passengers are extremely generous, and even then they are regularly not met. With the technology available it should be possible for regular visitors from low-risk countries such as the United States or Japan to walk through British customs like a visitor walks in and out of the Underground network.”
 
Ed West, co author of the paper, said:
 
“Brexit is unlikely to mean a reduction in immigration. Visitor numbers are only likely to increase as Asia's middle class grows, and it's vital that we not only successfully attract visitors and investors from around the world but that the public can trust the system in place to protect us.

“Increasingly research shows the importance of trust for successful societies, political systems and economies. The public must have faith in the country’s borders. The alternative is much blunter policy tools that restrict immigration of legitimate, productive migrants even more, and creates a deep suspicion and sense of fear about foreigners in Britain.”
 
Notes to editors:
 
For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at flora@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

To report ‘The Border after Brexit: How technology can secure Britain’s borders’ is available here.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

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