Danger and the Home Office
In May 2006, Rt Hon John Reid MP, freshly appointed Home Secretary, told the Home Affairs Committee that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (now UKBA, the UK Border Agency) was "not fit for purpose", and that it had inadequate leadership and inadequate management systems.
He was not alone in these beliefs. Ron Noble, Secretary General of Interpol, had already complained in 2004 that the UK doesn't make use of Interpol's database of lost and stolen passports. And in 2007, after the London and Glasgow bombing attempts, he complained again:
"We have the passport numbers, fingerprints and photos of more than 11,000 suspected terrorists on our database. But the UK does not check it against immigrants coming into the country or foreign nationals it has arrested," he said. "The guys detained last week could be wanted, arrested or convicted anywhere in the world and the UK would not know" ...
Interpol said last night that the UK makes just 50 checks a month of the database; France by comparison makes 700,000 checks and Switzerland makes 300,000 ...
"Why is it that some countries make sure passengers do not carry a bottle of spring water on to a plane, yet aren't careful to ensure convicted felons aren't entering their borders with stolen passports?"
Meanwhile, we have a Home Secretary who believes that ID cards should be essential to everyday life and at the same time he believes that they should not be compulsory . And UKBA are devoting resources to the deployment of facial recognition technology at UK passenger terminals when there is no known evidence to suggest that this technology works and a lot of evidence to suggest that it doesn't .
This confusion is not all lovable eccentricity. There are associated dangers. Questions about UKBA's strategy – eBorders – were raised with the Home Office in April 2009. A partial response was received in July. But only a partial response. They have therefore been raised again:
It is reported that eBorders will require us all to answer 53 questions before we can leave the country. While we fill in our forms, and queue up to have a computer say no, let us remember the Observer's 1 February 2009 report that:
Britain's police forces are still unable to use a pan-European database of criminals, prompting warnings that this could hinder their ability to track terror suspects entering Europe ahead of the Olympics.
The UK was given access to sensitive information on criminal and policing matters held on the Schengen Information System, an EU-wide directory, in 2000, but there have been repeated technical problems ...
Experts say the database could form a powerful weapon in the fight against crime and terrorism. In the past, Home Office officials have said that connecting British forces to the system had proved impossible due to technical difficulties and "acts of God", such as a fire that destroyed vital IT equipment.
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