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Strengthening Britain's borders through International co-operation
The Government today vowed to use its international relations to strengthen the UK's border controls, crack down on migration abuse and tackle trafficking.
The pledge was reinforced by Home Secretary John Reid speaking today from Washington in the US, where he announced that the two countries should routinely share information about travellers of interest, people using false documents and other immigration offenders.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne and Lord Triesman, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Returns, also met with their new French counterpart today to begin discussions on new measures to strengthen both countries' borders. The ministers signed a treaty which will pave the way for successful juxtaposed controls to continue when Eurostar relocates its London operations to St Pancras and Ebbsfleet.
The agreements mark today's launch of the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) international strategy: Managing Global Migration, which sets out the UK's global plans in the fight to halt illegal immigration.
At the forefront of the strategy is work with other governments to prevent illegal migration and speed-up the return of those with no right to be in the UK.
Through working with countries which act as 'transit' points on illegal immigration routes, the UK intends to put migration at the top of the international agenda.
Home Secretary John Reid said:
"Every issue we face, whether it involves immigration, identity or counter-terrorism, has international relationships at its very core. That is why today's international strategy is crucial to our future.
"We cannot protect Britain's borders by operating in a bubble. The only way to tackle these 21st Century issues is through countries working together. Today we are undertaking to improve that co-operation through better exchange of immigration data and working together to tackle the reasons for migration."
Law enforcement liaison officers will be deployed to countries on key routes to the UK, developing joint investigations to target traffickers.
A rapid response team will be established in the UK before the end of 2007, with specialists ready to be sent abroad to offer advice, support and training.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
"Britain is now laying the foundation stone for offshore borders all over the world.
"But we cannot act in isolation. It is crucial we build on our international alliances to close down routes to those attempting to abuse the system, while enabling legitimate travellers to pass freely.
"We have already seen success in tightening border controls. By exporting our border abroad through juxtaposed controls in France we have slashed illegal entrants detected in Kent by 88 per cent since 2002.
"Now we want to develop this further by sharing data where appropriate, offering our expertise abroad, and putting migration at the heart of our foreign policies."
The strategy has been developed jointly by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, following close consultation with the Department for Trade and Industry and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Lord Triesman, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Returns, said of the strategy today:
"Migration is a cross-government priority. We welcome those who come to the UK legally and make a valuable contribution to our economy and society.
"But tackling illegal migration effectively is key to maintaining public confidence. This means ensuring that we can return those who have no right to be in the UK.
"In my role as the PM's Special Envoy for Returns, I have been giving a new focus to this work by exploring the scientific and technical options to remove the barriers to removal. With others, we are looking at the scientific and technical identification of nationality. This will be an important tool in a series of measures to improve the redocumentation and return of immigration offenders."
Notes to Editors
1. 'Managing Global Migration' can be found on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/
2. The strategy describes how the Government will:
* put migration at the heart of many of our bilateral and multilateral relationships;
* make greater use of biometric data and share data legally with our international partners;
* intensify our efforts to work with our partners to tackle human smuggling and trafficking;
* continue to offer protection to genuine refugees but work with EU partners to reduce 'asylum shopping' across Europe and increase our efforts to deter and return those who have no legitimate claim; and
* promote legal migration to the UK to boost the economy and provide the skills we need.
3. The strategy builds on the publication of the Borders and Visa strategy, which can be found at http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/6353/aboutus/Securing_the_UK_Border_final.pdf
4. Last year Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) staff prevented 17,000 people crossing the channel illegally. At juxtaposed controls in France and Belgium the BIA caught 3,900 people trying to enter Britain through clandestine means.