Britain’s Border Force is in “complete disarray” after years of neglect by successive governments, warns a new report.
Failed reform attempts have cost the taxpayer £1 billion while at least one Islamic State terrorist has managed to sneak in and out of Britain, according to the study.
It states that UK’s “overrun” Border Force is responsible for inspecting and screening around 225 million incoming travellers each year - from major airports to the smallest harbour.
But the Border Force hasn’t been given the state-of-the-art equipment it needs to carry out essential security checks on passengers efficiently or securely, according to the report by the Adam Smith Institute.
The failure to properly fund the vital work of the Border Force has allowed some “high-risk” travellers to enter and leave the country unchecked.
The report also claims that while the Border Force claims to process 99 per cent of high-risk flights, as many as 4,197 of the flights are not actually met by Border Force agents, risk assessed or remotely checked against a security database, as is supposed to happen.
The paper examines the current state of the UK Border Force post-Brexit amid heightened concerns around immigration.
The hard-hitting report brands the current system as “not fit for purpose” with some parts 14 years out of date.
It proposes that a technological overhaul is needed.
But while passenger numbers have risen by 20 per cent since 2010, and are expected to rise by a further 43 per cent by 2030, the Border Force’s funding has been slashed.
Spending per passenger is down 25 per cent and morale in the force is at an “all-time low” with staff reporting that they do not have the resources needed to do their job properly.
The report states that the vote for Brexit reflected public demand for control over UK borders and showed the “catastrophic lack of trust” in the current system.
Having control over our borders is not merely a phrase, argues the report - we must know who is coming into the country and have the ability to block them from doing so if the law requires it.
Previous attempts to reform the system have been “disastrous failures” - estimated to cost the taxpayer in excess of £1bn.
According to the report, rather than turning to private firms demonstrating working systems, the Home Office chose the “expensive, risky and time-consuming” project of designing one in-house, which ultimately failed.
The report states that the UK needs a fully digitalised system that is future-proof to foreseeable advances in international standards. It argues that biometric passports that contain more data than just written information or inaccurate facial recognition, collected during international travel should be standard.
Report author Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: “A successful Border Force needs to do two things: keep people out of the country who should not be allowed in, and do so without causing unnecessary disruption to other passengers.
“In both these respects the Border Force is not succeeding. Its security systems are out of date, overstretched and failing to cover all passengers adequately.
“It’s astonishing that potentially thousands of high-risk flights are not being checked properly by the Border Force.
“Its target times for vetting inbound passengers are extremely generous, and even then they are regularly not met.
“With the technology available it should be possible for regular visitors from low-risk countries such as the United States or Japan to walk through British customs like a visitor walks in and out of the Underground network.”
Ed West, co author of the paper, added: “Brexit is unlikely to mean a reduction in immigration.
“Visitor numbers are only likely to increase as Asia’s middle class grows, and it’s vital that we not only successfully attract visitors and investors from around the world but that the public can trust the system in place to protect us.
“Increasingly research shows the importance of trust for successful societies, political systems and economies. The public must have faith in the country’s borders.
“The alternative is much blunter policy tools that restrict immigration of legitimate, productive migrants even more, and creates a deep suspicion and sense of fear about foreigners in Britain.”