UK Border Agency
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|UK Border Agency|
|Logo of the UK Border Agency.|
|Ensign of the UK Border Agency Customs Cutters.|
|Formed||1 April, 2008|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Legal jurisdiction||United Kingdom|
|Headquarters||2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF|
|Minister responsible||Mark Harper, Minister of State for Immigration|
|Agency executive||Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive|
|Parent agency||Home Office|
|UKBA 42m Customs Cutters||Five|
|Detection dogs||Over 100|
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is the border control agency of the British government and part of the Home Office. It was formed as an executive agency on 1 April 2008 by a merger of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), UKvisas and the Detection functions of HM Revenue and Customs. The decision to create a single border control organisation was taken following a Cabinet Office report.
The agency's head office is 2 Marsham Street, London. Rob Whiteman has been Chief Executive since September 2011. Over 23,000 staff work for the agency, in over 130 countries. It is divided into four main operations, each under the management of a senior director: operations, immigration and settlement, international operations and visas and law enforcement.
The agency has come under formal criticism from the Parliamentary Ombudsman for consistently poor service, a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases, and a large and increasing number of complaints. In the first nine months of 2009–10, 97% of investigations reported by the Ombudsman resulted in a complaint against the agency being upheld. The complainants were asylum, residence, or other immigration applicants.
On 26 March 2013, it was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May that the UK Border Agency would be abolished and its work returned to the Home Office. Its executive agency status was removed as of 31 March 2013  and the agency will be split into two new organisations; UK Visas and Immigration focusing on the visa system and an immigration enforcement organisation focusing on immigration law enforcement. The immigration enforcement part of the UKBA had already been separated from the rest of the agency in April 2012 and now operates as the Border Force.
The agency attained full agency status on 1 April 2009. Immigration Officers and Customs Officers retained their own powers for the enforcement and administration of the UK's borders, although management of the new organisation is integrated and progressively officers are cross trained and empowered to deal with customs and immigration matters at the border. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 received Royal Assent on 21 July 2009. This allows the concurrent exercise of customs powers by HMRC Commissioners and the Director of Border Revenue; it is the first step in overhauling immigration and customs legislation.
The UK Border Agency has a staff of 23,500 people located in over 130 countries. Overseas staff vet visa applications and operate an intelligence and liaison network, acting as the first layer of border control for the UK. The organisation operates as the single force at the border for the UK. Local immigration teams work within the regions of the United Kingdom, liaising with the police, HMRC, local authorities and the public. In August 2009 HM Revenue and Customs transferred several thousand customs detection officers to the agency, following Parliament agreeing to give it customs control powers. The agency now investigates smuggling. The agency is developing a single primary border control line at the UK border combining controls of people and goods entering the country.
The agency's E-borders programme checks travellers to and from the UK in advance of travel, using data provided by passengers via their airline or ferry operators. The organisation uses automatic clearance gates at main international airports.
The agency manages the UK Government's limit on non-European economic migration to the UK. It is responsible for in-country enforcement operations, investigating organised immigration crime and to detecting immigration offenders including illegal entrants and overstayers. The body is also responsible for the deportation of foreign national criminals at the end of sentences.
The UK Border Agency's budget combined with that of the Border Force was £2.17 billion in 2011-12. Under the spending review the agency will cut costs by up to 23%. At its peak the agency employed around 25,000 staff, but 5,000 posts are due to be cut by 2015 against the 2011-12 levels.
Founding Chief Executive Lin Homer left the agency in January 2011 to become the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport. Deputy Chief Executive Jonathan Sedgwick was acting chief until the new CEO, Rob Whiteman, took over on 26 September 2011. Sedgwick is now director of international operations and visas. In July 2011, the strategic policy functions of the agency moved to the Home Office.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced to Parliament on 26 March 2013 that the agency would be abolished due to continuing poor performance, and replaced by two new smaller organisations which would focus on the visa system and immigration law enforcement respectively. The UKBA's performance was described as "not good enough", partly blamed on the size of the organisation. A report by MP's also criticised the agency, and described it as "not fit for purpose". It was also claimed that the agency had provided inaccurate reports to the Home Affairs Select Committee over a number of years. The agency was split internally on 1 April 2013, becoming a visa and immigration service and separate immigration law enforcement service.
Presently, staff hold a mixture of powers granted to them by their status as immigration officers and customs officers.
Immigration officers have the power of arrest and detention conferred on them by the Immigration Act 1971, when both at ports and inland. In practice, border force officers exercise powers under Schedule 2 of the Immigration Act 1971 and inland immigration officers under S28A-H of the Immigration Act 1971 and paragraph 17 of Schedule 2. This has led to separate training for border and inland officers.
This act is applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. "Designated Immigration Officers" are port immigration officers who have been trained in detention under PACE. UK Border Agency immigration officers wear a uniform with rank insignia. Enforcement immigration officers wear body armour and carry handcuffs and ASP batons.
Customs officers have wide-ranging powers of entry, search and detention. The main power is to detain anyone who has committed, or who the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect has committed, any offence under the Customs and Excise Acts.
Removal of foreign nationals
The UK Border Agency occasionally removes foreign national criminals at the end of their prison terms. Over 5000 foreign national prisoners are deported each year. The agency also removes failed asylum seekers and others illegally in the UK. A 2009 report by the National Audit Office cited lack of detention space to support the asylum process. The agency has over 3000 detention spaces in removal centres run by private contractors or the Prison Service.
Common travel area
Immigration control within the United Kingdom is managed within a wider Common Travel Area (CTA). The CTA is an intergovernmental agreement that allows freedom of movement within an area that encompasses the UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Alderney) and the Republic of Ireland. Authorised entry to any of the above essentially allows entry to all the others but it is the responsibility of the person entering to ensure that they are properly documented for entry to other parts of the CTA. Despite the CTA it is still possible to be deported from the UK to the Republic of Ireland and vice versa.
Entry to the UK via the Channel Tunnel from France or Belgium or by ferry through selected ports in north-east France is controlled by juxtaposed immigration controls in Britain, France, and Belgium, i.e. travellers clear UK passport control in France or Belgium and those travelling to France or Belgium clear French controls while in the UK. Belgium does not maintain controls in the UK as the first Schengen country entered is France. UK Border Agency checkpoints in France are operated at Gare de Calais-Fréthun, Gare de Lille Europe, Channel Tunnel, Calais ferry terminal, Dunkirk ferry terminal and Gare du Nord station, Paris. A checkpoint operated at Boulogne-sur-Mer until the port closed in August 2010.
There have also been difficulties with the management of student visas under Tier 4 of the Points-Based System. The assessment of the Independent Chief Inspector, carried out between July and August 2010, found that there was an inconsistent response towards applications, with some cases given extra time to prepare and others dismissed for minor reasons.
In November 2011, the Home Affairs Select Committee issued a report that found that 124,000 deportation cases had been shelved by the UKBA. The report said the cases had been dumped in a "controlled archive", a term used to try to hide the fact from authorities and auditors that it was a list of lost applicants.
Following allegations that staff were told to relax some identity checks, in November 2011 the UK Home Office suspended: Brodie Clark, the Head of the Border Force; Carole Upshall, director of the Border Force South and European Operation; Graham Kyle, director of operations at Heathrow Airport. The Home Office is presently investigating allegations that Clark had agreed to "open up the borders" at certain times in ways ministers would "not have agreed with". It is alleged that between July and the end of October 2011, queues at passport control were "managed" so as not to annoy holiday makers. The BBC reported that staff may have been told not to scan biometric passports at certain times, which contain a digital image of the holder's face, which can be used to compare with the printed version and check the passport has not been forged. It is also believed that "warning index checks" at Heathrow and Calais were also suspended, which would have applied strict security checks against official watchlists of terrorists, criminals, and deported illegal immigrants.
After Clark refused the offer to take early retirement, he was suspended and the investigation began. A two-week inquiry led by former Metropolitan Police detective Dave Wood, currently head of the agency's enforcement and crime group, sought to discover to what extent checks were scaled down, and what the security implications might have been. A second investigation, led by former MI6 official Mike Anderson, the Director General of the Home Office's strategy, immigration and international group, sought to investigate wider issues relating to the performance of UKBA regarding racism.
It was then announced on 5 November by Theresa May that an independent inquiry would also be undertaken, led by the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine. The Border Force became a separate organisation on 1 March 2012.
- Illegal immigration in the United Kingdom
- Asylum shopping
- UK Immigration Service
- HM Customs and Excise
- UK Border Force
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