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Government’s IT Border Security System Can’t Measure Immigration Levels

The Home Office have admitted their e-Borders security system will provide ‘insufficient’ data to measure levels of immigration. The system, reported to have cost between £500m – £1bn, is designed to check people entering and leaving the UK and has taken more than 10 years to develop.

The Home Office made the admission in its response to a report by the House of Commons’ Public Administration Select Committee stating “the data is by itself insufficient to provide a direct measurement of migration flows” but did acknowledge “it will, when combined with other data sources, help improve our statistics in this area”.

The Home Office’s view is that with e-Border approach not gathering information regarding passengers’ length of stay (i.e. whether they are long-term migrants or simply tourists), the system cannot replace the current system of estimating net migration.

The response also suggested that routinely asking travellers about their about their travel plans, including length of stay or purpose of entering the UK, would contravene EU legislation and leave the Government open to legal challenge.

Ministers state: “it should be noted that EU Free Movement legislation supported by historical European Court judgements prevent Border Force Officers from routinely asking additional questions (e.g. on duration or purpose of intended stay) of EEA nationals beyond those necessary to establish nationality and identity”.

Following the Home Office’s admission, Shadow Immigration Minister, David Hanson, said: “it is central to an effective immigration system that we are able to count people into the country and know when they should have left the UK” and claimed that “[f]or ministers to admit that their new borders system will not even allow them to estimate immigration is a sign of their abject failure”.

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