Human error allows thousands into UK sans immigration checks

Published on : Wednesday, January 3, 2018

London Stansted AirportHome Office figures suggest that inept handling at airports has possibly allowed thousands of passengers without passing through immigration checks into Britain.

Ministers are currently consulting on a new civil penalty regime designed to stop travellers being “misdirected” when they arrive amid concerns it is undermining the integrity of the UK’s border.

Airlines and airports could now face fines of up to £50,000 if passengers are able to bypass border control as part of a proposed Government crackdown on the issue.

The problem has been blamed on human errors like incorrect doors being opened at arrival gates or passengers being directed to the wrong place upon arrival. Just under 1,000 passengers were not brought to immigration control in 2014 because of airport operator or carrier error.

That is likely to spark concerns about airport border security levels in previous and subsequent years.

The Government is hoping its plan to fine airports and airlines with lax controls will remedy the situation but the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said the proposal
Passengers arriving on scheduled flights must be directed to the airport’s immigration control to be cleared for entry into the country.

But in a small number of cases, officially known as “misdirections”, this does not happen and arrivals are not presented to Border Force officers.

The size of the fine is likely to depend on factors like how many passengers bypassed border controls and the action taken by the airport operator following the incident.

The Home Office said that when passengers are misdirected they are either returned to border control, or where this is not possible, retrospectively checked against a range of security and immigration watchlists.

While there are no examples of dangerous individuals arriving unchecked because of a misdirection, there is a significant administrative burden placed on Border Force, the department added.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are determined to eradicate these errors and believe a civil penalty is a vital tool in ensuring this happens.”

Consultation on the plan is due to end later this month.

Fines could range from £2,500 to £50,000.

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