May accused of covering-up French-English border failings
Home secretary Theresa May has been accused of a “cover-up,” having abused legal powers to edit key parts of a report into UK border controls.
Fifteen sections of the report have been censored – including passages that reveal staff fear resources in Calais are overstretched – for reasons of national security.
According to un-redacted parts of the report, thousands of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the UK from France have not been fingerprinted by border authorities for over three years. Other parts describe how government agency Border Force has fined those guilty of bringing in illegal immigrants beneath the maximum levels allowed.
The allegation comes as Mrs May is accused by politicians – including Labour’s minister for immigration, Chris Bryant, – of hiding “her own failings” highlighted in a report by the chief inspector of borders and immigration, John Vine.
Chris Bryant said: “Yet again the Government refuses to be straight with the British people about immigration and our borders. This cover-up and the failure at our borders provide yet more dents in this Government’s much-tarnished credibility.”
In one redacted section of the report it is stated that border officials have voiced concerns over the effect of the so-called Lille loophole, which effectively exempts many passengers who travel to Britain via Lille, on Eurostar trains boarded in Brussels, from UK Border Force immigration checks.
Mr Bryant has also said Theresa May “should share the full report with the Home Affairs Select Committee and ourselves and explain why the full report cannot be published without masses of redactions. This is a cover-up to hide her own failings”.
The chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, has also raised issue with the actions of the Home Secretary, and shown apparent disappointment in the continued effects of the Lille loophole, saying: “The committee has been assured in the past that the loophole would be closed. The withholding of information prevents us from properly holding the Border Force to account.”
From September 2011 to August 2012, up to 8,000 illegal immigrants were prevented from entering the UK in vehicles and other containers in Calais, neighbouring Coquelles and Dunkirk.
From January 2010, border authorities no longer fingerprint or photograph illegal immigrants found at Calais due to problems with the availability of cells to detain them in. This was also later stopped at Coquelles.
Mr Vaz has said there is “considerable room for improvement in complying with guidance and procedures”.