Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blunder allowed 'danger migrants' to vanish: Britain will never know how many terrorists or criminals got in, admits Home Secretary

We will never know how many terrorists and criminals entered Britain in the latest borders blunder. Theresa May made the admission yesterday as she explained to MPs her role in the relaxation of controls this summer.

The Home Secretary said she ordered a ‘pilot’ scheme to water down passport checks in July for Britons and other EU nationals – without telling Parliament. Up to five million foreign nationals may have entered the UK during the downgrade, which applied at every port and airport. It will never be known how many were illegals.

Senior Home Office sources conceded Mrs May agreed to extend the pilot scheme in September – even though she did not know whether it was working properly.

Last night a damaging leaked document also revealed that the rule change was brought in to cut queues at airports, not for security reasons. Home Office sources also admitted Mrs May was kept informed about the original scheme.

The scandal is hugely embarrassing for the Tories, who campaigned at the election on a platform of reducing immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ a year, after it soared to more than a quarter of a million under Labour.

UK Borders Agency boss Brodie Clark was suspended on Thursday after Mrs May was told a separate round of additional checks on foreigners from outside the EU against a ‘watch list’ had also been suspended at Calais as well as some Heathrow fingerprint checks.

But last night the Public and Commercial Services Union – which represents hundreds of Border Agency officials – claimed the fingerprint checks were actually scrapped months before the pilot scheme was introduced.

Mrs May’s critics, however, have still to produce ‘smoking gun’ evidence that she knew of Mr Clark’s decision to further water down the checks last summer.

Yesterday Labour disclosed an email – circulated on July 28 – which ordered UKBA staff to ‘cease routinely opening the chip’ in biometric passports from the EU.

Officials were also told to stop ‘routinely checking’ children from the EU ‘against the Warnings Index’, which is designed to weed out possible terrorists and criminal gangs.

And staff were told to not routinely question visa holders from outside the EU on arrival in the UK either – though Home Office officials said this was standard practice. Crucially, the document also gave the green light for the border staff to take ‘further measures’ without clearing them with ministers.

Extraordinarily, the document makes clear that the downgrade in checks was carried out to ‘ensure good order in the arrival hall, disruption to flight schedules’ and prevent ‘passengers being held on the aircraft’.

That revelation is particularly damaging for ministers as union chiefs say the changes were made because ministers are laying off 5,200 staff as part of cut-backs and there aren’t enough staff to handle the volume of passengers at peak times.

Announcing no fewer than three inquiries into the fiasco, the Home Secretary insisted the measures were authorised on the basis that they were subject to a ‘risk-based assessment’ and not used routinely. But that claim was in tatters as Borders Agency whistleblowers said passport controls were relaxed for half of working shifts at most ports of entry and ‘almost round the clock’ at some airports like Luton and Stansted.

Mrs May placed the blame squarely at the door of Brodie Clark, telling MPs he ‘authorised the wider relaxation of border controls without ministerial sanction’. ‘Indeed I told officials explicitly that the pilot was to go no further than we had agreed,’ she said.

‘As a result of these unauthorised actions, we will never know how many people entered the country who should have been prevented from doing so after being flagged by the Warnings Index.’

Around 100,000 foreign nationals enter Britain every day. If the rules were relaxed for half of all shifts, it is likely that up to five million foreign nationals entered the UK while the weaker rules were in operation.

A briefing note circulated by Tory whips yesterday urged Conservative MPs to ask the Home Secretary whether those responsible should be prosecuted – effectively agitating for Mr Clark to be charged.

UKBA sources, unions and opposition politicians said it was inconceivable that the Home Office did not know what was going on.

Home Office officials admitted Mrs May did receive an update on the operation of the scheme when she signed off a decision to extend it from mid-September to November.

Aides said she would not have seen the ‘operational instruction’ from Border Agency bosses to frontline staff at ports of entry.

Mrs May was supported by David Cameron, but Downing Street made clear he was only informed about the pilot scheme in recent days ‘when it was apparent that there was a problem’.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Mrs May of ‘doing nothing, even now, to find out and assess who has entered the country and what the security risk might be’. Mrs May will be grilled again today on the fiasco when she appears in front of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee.


Arizona recall election: immigration reform at stake

As Arizonans head to the polls to vote in the Arizona recall election, Republican state Senator Russell Pearce slammed the negative rhetoric that has characterized the highly controversial recall election. The Arizona recall election will be closely monitored by Arizonans and political pundits, because of its implications for immigration reform.

Pearce was the chief architect of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. SB1070, Arizona’s immigration law, was enacted to “to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.” Arizona’s immigration law sparked a public outcry from immigration rights activists.

“I call upon my supporters and those supporting my opponent to bring the rhetoric and personal attacks to an end,” Pearce said in a press statement several days before the Arizona recall election. Pearce said that “personal attacks against me and my opponent have reached a fevered pitch.” In an effort to keep the peace, Pearce urged that “in the closing days of this campaign that both sides focus on the issues.”

FOX News Latino reports that Pearce’s supporters tried to water down Lewis’ vote by throwing a third candidate into the recall election. Olivia Cortes will be on the ballot, despite dropping out of the race. FOX News notes that a vote for Cortes will be one less vote for Lewis.

According to an Arizona Capital Times/ABC15 News poll, the results of the Arizona recall election are likely to be very close. Pearce has 43 percent of the votes and Republican Jerry Lewis has 46 percent of the votes. The Arizona Capital Times/ABC15 News poll was conducted on November 1 with 598 likely voters in District 18.


No comments:

Post a Comment