Border Control Row – Where Will it Lead?

Tensions are still flaring between Theresa May and Brodie Clark after leaked UKBA documents and emails revealed that border control measures were severely relaxed over the summer. According to the evidence, thousands of non-EU passengers were able to enter the UK without the correct passport checks or screening against the terrorist watch list.

Pilot scheme implemented

Home Secretary Theresa May admitted implementing the pilot scheme to relax the checks on EU biometric passports at UK airports and ports over the summer. The “intelligence-led” system of checks was put into place so that UKBA could ultimately target high-risk travellers, including terror suspects and illegal immigrants, while the majority of travellers would be able to pass through the UK easily and without long queues and too much hassle.

But the leaked documents show that checks on non EU passports were also relaxed.

  • In one email, a UKBA official complained: ‘We are not allowed to physically see the passengers arriving on private charter flights. It is creating a situation where we are not able to secure the borders as robustly as we would like, for no justifiable reason.’
  • In a leaked reply, a manager revealed that this policy was followed at airports around the country.
  • Another email reveals that staff members ‘feel uneasy about an instruction that is creating an unnecessary gap in security, which could bring the Agency into disrepute’.

Clark accused of “taking it too far”

According to May, the Home Office had not given approval for individuals on ‘warning lists’ to be able to pass through border controls with reduced scrutiny. May further claimed that UKBA Director Brodie Clark implemented further measures to relax checks without authorisation, in order to manage growing airport queues. Clark resigned following his suspension, and insists that he had been given permission to extend the scheme. Clark also openly attacked May for making him a scapegoat and is lodging a claim for constructive dismissal.

The prime minister offered his support for May, saying: “It is right that the head of the border force was suspended and I back that action completely.”

Consequences for non-EU travellers

At this stage there is speculation that border checks and general immigration controls will once again become more stringent in response to this debacle, as government once again tries to prove its “toughness” with regards to immigration issues. Mrs May was however quoted as saying that recent figures showed “an almost 10 % increase in detection of illegal immigrants and a 48 % increase in detection of forged documents compared to the year before”. This should hopefully be enough reason to keep the original pilot scheme in place, meaning ordinary travellers and immigrant already living in the UK can come and go fairly easily, while illegal immigrants and terror suspects will continue to be heavily targeted at ports and airports.

“UK Immigration law and policy with regards to the allowances for Foreign Nationals to enter the UK for the purposes to live and work remains a consistently volatile issue,” says Robyn Cory or 1st Contact Visa. “The UK Home Office is continuously proposing and implementing changes to accommodate both policy and infrastructure available in the UK. Challenges such as the current issues regarding security will undoubtedly result in additional changes being implemented. Foreign Nationals still eligible under current legislation, should apply as soon as possible!”

For advice or information, or to apply for your UK visa, visit

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