Airport borders not working properly, delayed report foundon February 29, 2024 at 8:12 pm

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

The accusation is within previously withheld reports written by the then-immigration watchdog.

A Border Force officer at Gatwick Airport (file photo from February 2023)

The former independent immigration watchdog called UK border protection “neither effective nor efficient” in a report that went unpublished by the government for nine months.

David Neal found e-passport gates at airports were staffed by “distracted” officers who lacked basic equipment.

The accusation is within 13 previously withheld reports written by Mr Neal, who was sacked last week.

MPs criticised the delay as reports are normally released within eight weeks.

Mr Neal was let go from his role last week after details of his findings appeared in newspapers.

The publication of the overdue reports were “a demonstration of transparency and acceptance of independent scrutiny”, the Home Office said on Thursday, adding that a further two reports would be published in the next eight weeks.

As the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) at the time, Mr Neal wrote that an inspection of the e-passport system at airports found border officials distracted and stressed, lacking basic communication equipment.

The report, completed in May 2023, said resources were inconsistently deployed, and border posts went unmanned while staff went to get additional help.

The Home Office acknowledged airports were “complicated”, but said its aim was “to provide a professional and adaptable service which protects the public by providing a secure border, whilst facilitating legitimate travel and trade.”

Two other reports, looking at the use of hotels to house unaccompanied asylum seeking children and families, said “basic bread-and-butter checks” on hotel staff had not been carried out.

They also highlighted the chaotic handling of Afghans who came to the UK after the Taliban takeover in Kabul in August 2021.

He said the Home Office had been unable to process cases efficiently, and poor IT systems led officials to contact some of the evacuees by phone to ask if they had permission to remain in the UK.

A ‘burning platform’

His report on the asylum system described it as a “burning platform that required radical action”.

It questioned why the Home Office had not taken action to address an increasing backlog of cases before Rishi Sunak promised in December 2022 to clear them.

Mr Neal said there had been a soaring number of asylum cases withdrawn, or cancelled, by the Home Office after the prime minister’s announcement.

“22% of all decisions made since June 2022 were withdrawals, and, incredibly, only one underwent formal quality assurance. This is not acceptable,” said Mr Neal.

“I am concerned that the focus on clearing the legacy backlog ‘at all costs’ has led to perverse outcomes for claimants and staff.”

Mr Neal was sacked last week after the Home Office said he breached the terms of his role and leaked confidential information.

David Neal

Image source, PA Media

Mr Neal had told the Daily Mail he had seen Home Office data suggesting that just 21% of private jets classified as high risk, which came into London City Airport, were inspected by immigration officials last year.

Immigration minister Tom Pursglove told the Commons the Home Office “categorically” rejected claims.

But when he appeared before MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, Mr Neal said he had been “sacked for doing his job” on a Microsoft Teams call with Home Secretary James Cleverly.

He added that he stood by the contents of his report on private jets.

“I wouldn’t have submitted it and behaved in the way I’ve done if there were any doubts it wasn’t accurate,” he said.

In one report Mr Neal had accused the Home Office of “sitting on” his revelations in 2022.

A source at the department described the reports as “dirty nappies” left behind in the Home Office.

The Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Dame Diana Johnson, said: “The Home Office has failed to meet its commitment to lay these reports in Parliament within eight weeks, with some of them dating as far back as April 2023.

“The Home Office will really need to up its game if it is to ensure the ICIBI is restored to where it should be if it is to be a crucial part of testing and developing the UK’s borders and immigration strategies.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “In January the Home Secretary made a promise to the previous Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to publish all overdue reports as soon as possible.

“Today we have delivered on that promise by publishing all 13 reports that were overdue.

“The publication of these reports that scrutinise the activity of the Home Office and make recommendations for improvement is in and of itself a demonstration of transparency and acceptance of independent scrutiny.

“A final two reports from the former Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration will be published in the established eight week period. A process of appointing his replacement is already underway.”

- Advertisement -

Discover

Sponsor

Latest

UK farmers sound alarm over Australia trade talkson May 18, 2021 at 5:15 pm

Labour accuse the government of a "sell-out" amid reports of a Cabinet rift over free trade deal.image copyrightGetty ImagesUK farmers have sounded the alarm...

Rugby league brain damage: ‘You’re thrown away like an unwanted, broken toy’on October 27, 2021 at 8:37 am

Michael Edwards is among 10 former players suing the Rugby Football League (RFL) over brain injuries.

Commonwealth Games: England denied dramatic relay gold by disqualificationon August 7, 2022 at 9:30 pm

England are denied a dramatic 4x400m relay gold after officials rule they committed a lane infringement before anchor Jessie Knight held off Canada in...

How Much The Coronavirus Bear Market Is Costing Every American

The stock market's S&P 500 losses are getting real: Real large. Every American lost, on average, $22,313 apiece from the ongoing coronavirus stock total market...

Investment Strategies for Beginners,Tips with Banking Guru and CEO Nitin Khanna

If you’ve ever held money in a savings account, you’re already familiar with the feeling of ‘having your money working for you’. Investing is...