Priti Patel eyes US-style immigration crackdown

Border blitz to keep criminals out: Priti Patel eyes US-style immigration crackdown by screening every traveller heading for Britain… BEFORE they even board a plane

  • Under the plans, all overseas visitors will be forced to apply for entry permission 
  • This will provide a chance to screen arrivals in advance of them setting off 
  • Travellers will have their details automatically checked against watch lists 

Every foreign traveller will face a criminal check before they get on a plane to Britain under Priti Patel’s border clampdown, the Mail can reveal.

The Home Secretary will replicate tough US measures used to keep out people who pose a threat to the country.

Under the plans, all overseas visitors – including those from EU member states – will be forced to apply for permission to enter the UK before starting their journey. This will provide a chance to screen arrivals in advance of them setting off.

Travellers will have their details automatically checked against watch lists and criminal databases – and those who have previously committed crimes will have their applications reviewed to decide if they should be let in. 

Officials will be able to block dangerous people from coming before they board flights.

The plans – modelled on the Esta system of pre-flight checks introduced in the US after 9/11 – are due to be published this later month and will be included in the UK Sovereign Borders Bill in the summer.

The Home Secretary will replicate tough US measures used to keep out people who pose a threat to the country

Alice Gross, 14, (right) was murdered in west London in 2014 by convicted killer Arnis Zalkalns (left) who had moved from Latvia under freedom of movement rule

The Mail revealed yesterday that the bill will also include controversial plans to send asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via illegal routes to a third country, such as Turkey. 

They would then remain there until they could be repatriated to either their home country, or the one they travelled to the UK from.

The plan is the latest effort to toughen Britain’s borders.

Currently, foreign travellers from almost 90 countries – including EU member states, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina and Chile – do not need a visa to enter the UK for stays of up to six months.

Boris Johnson backs Priti Patel on overseas asylum centres 

Plans to send asylum seekers abroad for processing will ‘save life and avert human misery’, Boris Johnson said yesterday.

He spoke after the Mail revealed that Priti Patel plans to change the law to allow migrants who arrive from safe countries such as France to be sent overseas to have their cases assessed.

The plan to ‘offshore’ claims sparked anger from charities, with the Refugee Council branding it ‘inhumane’. And it was dismissed by Gibraltar and the Isle of Man after they were named as possible destinations if efforts fail to find a third country willing to process asylum seekers for cash.

But the Prime Minister defended the ‘humanitarian’ approach, saying it would combat ‘traffickers and gangsters’ who control Channel crossings. Under a ‘fair but firm’ approach, the Home Secretary will also open up ‘safe and legal’ routes to Britain direct from crisis zones.

The Common Sense Group of Tory MPs backed the plans to fix the ‘broken’ system.

However, Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, flatly rejected the idea that asylum seekers could be sent to the Rock. He said: ‘We will not ever shirk our responsibility to help wherever we can. Our geography makes some things difficult, however, and the processing of asylum seekers to the UK in Gibraltar would be one of them.’

The Isle of Man government said it had received no such request from London. 

A spokesman said: ‘The Isle of Man is self-governing, the UK Government would not be able to open any sort of processing centre on the island without consent.’

This means British officials can have only limited information about them prior to their arrival at the border. 

Last year, the Mail revealed that hundreds of foreign killers, rapists and paedophiles had entered Britain without any checks. More than 2,000 serious offenders were arrested over a three-year period after arriving here unhindered – a rate of two a day. 

Their convictions emerged only after they were arrested and officers requested police records from their home countries. Some arrived under EU freedom of movement rules.

Although EU nationals have their passport details checked against a ‘watchlist’ of suspected terrorists and foreign criminals when they arrive at the border, any convictions are unlikely to be raised unless they are a high-profile offender.

Alice Gross, 14, was murdered in west London in 2014 by a convicted killer who had moved from Latvia under freedom of movement rules.

Under the new plan, everyone other than British and Irish citizens will be required to have completed an online ‘permission to travel’ form as part of a new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme. Rules will stop airlines from letting people board unless they have filled the form in.

The scheme is modelled on America’s Esta – or Electronic System for Travel Authorization – in which those going to the US must submit an online application at least 72 hours before travel and pay a $14 (£10) fee.

Passengers have to declare if they have been arrested or convicted of certain crimes including arson, burglary, assault, murder and rape.

They also have to declare if they have ever violated drugs laws or engaged in terrorism or espionage. Ministers here are yet to finalise details such as how long in advance of travel passengers will have to submit their details, the application fee, and what criteria will be used for blocking someone from travelling. 

A Home Office source said: ‘For too long our borders haven’t been as secure as they should have been.

‘Now we have ended free movement and introduced our points-based system, we can add an extra level of security to our borders with these electronic travel authorisations and keep out people who want to come here and cause harm.’

Miss Patel will announce the scheme as part of her radical overhaul of the country’s border policies. She will establish new ‘legal safe routes’ allowing genuine refugees to secure the right to come to the UK directly from war zones.

But the proposals will also mean Britain takes a tougher line on unauthorised immigration. Migrants will be banned from claiming UK asylum if they arrive from a safe country such as France. In a bid to end illegal Channel crossings, arrivals will be sent to a third country for processing.

The new measures will also include tougher enforcement action against people smuggling gangs, including the introduction of life sentences for the worst offenders, up from a current maximum jail term of 14 years. 

This will foil the gangsters… and help to save lives, writes Migration Watch UK chairman ALP MEHMET 

By Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, for the Daily Mail 

There is only one way to stop the boats, end the trade in people-smuggling, and save lives. That is by making it clear that those attempting to get to Britain in small vessels across the Channel will not be allowed to remain here unless, and until, they have been granted asylum.

Of course, we must do everything possible to help genuine refugees, but Home Office figures released last year show that more than 80 per cent of those who arrived via this route were deemed not to have a credible asylum claim in the UK because they had passed through safe countries on their way here, or were not deemed to be fleeing persecution at all.

If the Home Secretary really means business, I wish her well. It is the right thing to do and it is what the public want.

However, to succeed, Priti Patel will need the support of her Cabinet colleagues – in particular, the Prime Minister. 

She must face down resistance in Parliament and a barrage of hostility and abuse from NGOs (non-governmental organisations), humanitarian agencies and charities.

Migrants wait to disembark a Border Force vessels at Dover Port last summer

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has fired the opening salvo in what will become a bloody debate, describing the proposals reported by the Mail yesterday as ‘inhumane and ridiculous’.

But Miss Patel is right to consider changing the law so those arriving by illegal Channel crossings can be sent to a third country (or British territory). If this fails, they should be returned to their home nation or the safe country from which they came.

But we need more detail. The generalities we have heard so far will not do when the new policy is formally announced as part of the UK Sovereign Borders Bill next week. Fine words will fade unless they are backed up with a clear and specific plan.

Has the Government run any of this past the countries where processing centres might be set up? Turkey has experience of a similar arrangement with the EU, but Gibraltar and the Isle of Man have been swift to distance themselves from any such proposal.

The good news is that policies of this kind are feasible and have been shown to work elsewhere.

Australia’s ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ was implemented in 2013, in a year that saw boat arrivals hit more than 20,000.

Prior to 2013, some 50,000 ‘illegal maritime arrivals’ were recorded on more than 800 boats, according to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs. Most hailed from Indonesia, often paying large sums of money to people smugglers. Hundreds tragically died en route. 

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has fired the opening salvo in what will become a bloody debate, describing the proposals reported by the Mail yesterday as ‘inhumane and ridiculous’

From 2013, military vessels patrolled Australian waters and the government made it clear that ‘no one who attempts illegal maritime travel to Australia will be settled here’.

When they apprehend migrants attempting arrival by boat, they are not landed in Australia nor given the right to settle. Instead, their asylum claims are heard in offshore processing centres. Australia has one such centre on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and one in Papua New Guinea.

Even if asylum seekers are confirmed to be genuine refugees, they are not allowed to settle in Australia but can reside in Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia or – following a 2016 agreement – even in the US.

While the policy may not be perfect – and it is certainly controversial – it is far better than allowing an unfettered and increasing flow in potentially deadly trips in unseaworthy vessels. 

Alexander Downer, who was foreign minister of Australia in early 2000s, said: ‘Once word got round that if you tried to get into Australia by boat you would not be allowed in and would be sent to Papua New Guinea instead, they ran out of customers. The smugglers’ businesses closed down.’

Their tough policy paid off. The boats simply stopped coming in 2013 and 2014 and as the BBC reported, the number of dangerous crossings ‘plummeted’.

The EU’s multi-billion-pound deal with Turkey in 2016 provides another example. Between January and October 2015 there was a flow of 390,000 migrants – many fleeing the Syrian civil war – across the straits between Turkey and Greece, with hundreds dying in their attempt to reach EU territory.

In September alone more than 153,000 arrived in Greece. By October, nearly 7,000 were arriving daily. Compare this with the 43,500 who came in the whole of 2014, with hundreds of migrants dying in their attempt to reach EU territory.

The turning point was a deal between the EU and Turkey under which migrants arriving in Greece would be sent to Turkey if they failed to apply for asylum or if their claim was rejected. 

It came into effect in March 2016 and the deadly crossings fell sharply. According to the UNHCR, by January 2017 there were fewer than 7,000 sea arrivals in the EU compared with over 220,000 in October 2015.

So the Home Secretary is right to look carefully at policies that have worked in other parts of the world. 

And let us not forget the thousands of genuine refugees we have accepted over the past five years from UN refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. 

Indeed, we have resettled nearly 30,000 people – more than any other country in Europe – not something that many NGOs draw attention to.

Our asylum system costs the taxpayer about £1billion a year. There has to be a balance between providing refuge to genuine cases and the need to ensure effective immigration control.

Now that illegal entry to the UK by sea is rapidly increasing – already two and half times the number this year that came in the same period last year – a policy that stops people from setting out on deadly journeys has to be considered. 

It will restore confidence in the concept of asylum – as well as save lives and thwart the criminal traffickers.

Alp Mehmet is the former British ambassador to Iceland and chairman of Migration Watch UK. 

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