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E-borders scheme ‘yet to deliver benefits’

A number of failures have been identified in the UK e-borders scheme in a new report by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration. John Vine found that vital information was deleted and new arrivals to the UK were not checked by the scheme. 

He is calling for a fundamental re-think of the programme. 

The scheme was introduced to collect advanced passenger information (API) on every scheduled inbound and outbound journey to and from the UK. This would help to “export the border” and improve immigration controls. The target was to cover 95% of journeys by December 2012 but last year’s inspection showed that only 65% of journeys were being covered. 

There are also issues around data and information. Over a 10 month period, 649,000 pieces of information about possible drug and tobacco smuggling had been deleted without being read, the report found. 

Vine said: “These deletions had a significant impact on the ability of staff at the border to seize prohibited and restricted goods and deal with those responsible.” 

He added: “I was surprised that the use of e-borders information to export the border, by preventing the arrival of a passenger because they had either been deported or excluded from the UK previously, was not happening. 

“Despite being in development for over a decade, and costing over half a billion pounds, the e-borders programme has yet to deliver many of the anticipated benefits originally set out in 2007. 

“The Home Office should now define clearly what the aims of the e-borders programme are ahead of the new procurement exercise, and be transparent about what e-borders will deliver and by when.” 

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: “We have the best coverage of any country in Europe but we are working to improve our coverage further. We will take the findings of the independent inspector into account as we continue to develop our API policies and coverage.” 

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