Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021 Debate

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Department: Home Office

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the draft Order laid before the House on 19 January be approved.

Relevant document: 44th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, this order was laid before Parliament in January and is required to align the juxtaposed controls regime at the seaports of northern France with the regime currently in operation at Coquelles for the Channel Tunnel shuttle service and at the Eurostar rail terminals in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The order will replicate the legislative approach taken at the other juxtaposed control locations and enable all UK immigration legislation to be applied in the UK control zones at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

The security and integrity of our borders depend on the effective enforcement of our immigration controls, particularly at the UK border controls in northern France, where each year thousands of people make perilous attempts to enter the UK illegally. It is essential that Border Force officers working at our border in northern France are empowered to carry out immigration controls to the fullest extent.

As noble Lords will know, the UK has several international agreements with France that allow UK Border Force to operate border controls at specified ports in France. This allows Border Force officers to conduct checks on passengers and freight destined for the UK. It is a reciprocal arrangement, with French officers completing entry checks at certain points in the UK on passengers and freight destined for continental Europe. This form of pre-departure immigration control plays a crucial role in tackling irregular migration and disrupting organised immigration crime.

Currently, Border Force conducts juxtaposed immigration controls at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk, with the French Police aux Frontières undertaking Schengen entry checks at the UK port of Dover prior to travel. The juxtaposed controls in Calais and Dunkirk are provided for at an international level by the 2003 Le Touquet treaty. This was put into effect in the UK by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003, which I shall refer to as the 2003 order. It was made under Section 141 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

The 2003 order granted officers of the Immigration Service, as it was then known, specified immigration powers enabling them to carry out immigration controls in specified geographical locations, known as control zones, at the northern French seaports. At that time, only the powers specified in the order were necessary for the efficient and effective conduct of immigration controls. However, the way in which Border Force operates has changed in the intervening years. Officers at Calais and Dunkirk therefore now operate with fewer powers than are available to their colleagues elsewhere.

The order under debate amends the 2003 order to grant UK Border Force officers working at the juxtaposed ports of Calais and Dunkirk the full range of immigration powers currently available to them under the Immigration Acts. This includes the power to use reasonable force, as set out in Section 146 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which is available to their counterparts at other locations.

The order therefore empowers appropriately trained Border Force officers at the juxtaposed seaports to use reasonable force under English law when carrying out any power conferred on them by the Immigration Acts. This will enable trained Border Force staff to intervene to prevent harm where an individual’s behaviour endangers themselves, the travelling public or other Border Force staff. It will also allow trained Border Force officers to enforce compliance with immigration processes, including fingerprinting.

Border Force officers will continue to take all reasonable steps to avoid using force, as they do elsewhere, by engaging with the individual and encouraging them to comply. Reasonable force would only ever be used as a last resort where an individual repeatedly refused to co-operate with Border Force officers and such force became necessary either for health and safety reasons or to ensure that full immigration controls were completed.

This measure builds on the steps the Government have already taken to reform the immigration system, strengthen border controls and reduce illegal migration. It will strengthen Border Force’s ability to manage those who seek to frustrate our immigration processes or circumvent UK immigration controls, and it will ensure that Border Force officers are properly empowered to intervene to prevent harm. I beg to move.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, there were indeed a lot of questions, some relating to this SI and others slightly outside it. I will happily try to answer as many questions as I can, and I will write to noble Lords where I cannot.

I hope I have made it clear that the integrity of the UK’s immigration system depends on the effective enforcement of the Immigration Rules. This measure empowers Border Force staff based at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk to exercise their powers to the fullest extent at the UK border controls in northern France.

Border Force officers will always seek first to engage with the individual, explaining the requirement to comply with immigration controls and encouraging the individual to do so. This order will allow suitably trained Border Force officers to exercise reasonable force, where necessary, to enforce compliance with immigration processes, where, for example, an individual attempts to abscond from Border Force custody or refuses to provide their fingerprints. It will also allow trained Border Force officers to intervene if a person’s conduct endangers themselves, Border Force staff or, indeed, the public. I assure noble Lords that such reasonable force would be exercised only as a last resort and only where its use is considered necessary, justified and proportionate. I hope that answers the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about training. Training will be provided and only Border Force officers who have been suitably trained will be permitted to use force when carrying out their duties—and only where it is absolutely necessary, justified and proportionate. The Home Office provides Border Force staff with comprehensive training on the use of force and officers are required to refresh this training annually.

On fingerprinting, it is correct that there have been some low levels of non-compliance with fingerprinting at Coquelles, where we are already able to exercise these powers. When encountered, officers have been able to use their training to contain and resolve the situation. It is inevitable that Border Force officers will occasionally encounter non-compliance, but they are trained to deal effectively with these situations; as I have said, they undergo comprehensive training. All incidents involving the use of force are recorded and may, where appropriate, be subject to review and/or investigation so that we can continue to ensure the safety of our staff and ensure that training is sufficient.

I now come to some specific questions. I welcome my noble friend Lord Bourne’s support for this SI. He asked about the juxtaposed controls and EU exit. The juxtaposed border controls are not an EU construct. They have been established through bilateral and multilateral arrangements with partners in France, Belgium and the Netherlands and allow the officers of each state to exercise controls as they would in their own territory. For the UK, this includes officers being permitted to use reasonable force where necessary, as I have said, when carrying out their duties, such as when fingerprinting irregular migrants and in cases where they have to intervene if a non-compliant individual’s conduct endangers themselves or other people.

My noble friend asked about the situation in Calais. The package of support that we have agreed with the French covers four broad areas. It has increased the number of gendarme reservists, with double the number of officers patrolling French beaches from 1 December last year. We have increased surveillance and technology. We have improved port infrastructure to reduce opportunities for smuggling, and we have reception centres, which support migrants into appropriate and safe accommodation in France, informing and enabling them to access the asylum system in France, and taking them out of the hands of criminal gangs.

My noble friends Lord Bourne and Lord Naseby asked about consultation. We have, of course, co-operated closely with the French for many years to tackle irregular migration and maintain the integrity of our shared borders. The measure will strengthen UK border controls at the juxtaposed seaports of Calais and Dunkirk and we are continuing to work closely with our French partners on implementation. My noble friend Lord Naseby asked about any adverse reaction to this; the answer is no—so far there has not been any.

My noble friend Lord Bourne asked whether oversight was in place to ensure that the power is properly exercised. Reasonable force would be exercised only as a last resort and only where its use is considered necessary, justified and proportionate. Border Force has robust internal procedures in place to ensure that its officers are exercising this power correctly. As I said earlier, every incident involving the use of force is recorded and, where appropriate and proportionate, reviewed locally by senior Border Force staff and/or the Home Office’s operational safety unit. Incidents involving serious professional misconduct may be subject to full internal investigation, including, where appropriate, by the professional standards unit. Border Force functions at the juxtaposed controls are overseen by a number of external oversight bodies, including the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and HM Inspector of Prisons.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about French officers based at Dover. This order relates to the powers of UK Border Force officers based at the juxtaposed seaports in France. The international agreements that underpin these juxtaposed controls allow the officers of each state to operate immigration controls as they would in their own territory, as he articulated; therefore, British and French law may not necessarily align in this regard. French officers carrying out immigration controls at Dover already have the power under their domestic law to use reasonable force where necessary. The Le Touquet agreement already allows UK and French authorities to use their full range of powers in their respective control zones.

To expand on the point I made to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, about fingerprinting, it is migrants who attempt to circumvent UK immigration controls who may be fingerprinted.

My noble friend Lord Naseby asked what more we can do. We have the sovereign borders Bill coming up—I cannot give an exact date, but it will be soon—which completely overhauls the system to allow for safe and legal routes to this country. My noble friend asked whether there were any objections among our staff to moving to France. I do not know, but I will find out if I can. He asked about constraints on the turning back of rubber dinghies—although this is outside this statutory instrument. The constraints will be dependent on whose waters the boat is in. Clearly, in the Channel, some of the opportunities to turn back do not spread across a great distance at all. He asked about problems with small airports and extensions to other ports. I would imagine—but shall confirm—that extensions to other ports will be considered in due course should the demand arise.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, basically asked why we were being so cruel in our use of reasonable force. This use was set out in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It is not a new thing; it is 22 years old and well established. My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes asked why there is so much legislation. Of course, we are overhauling the system through the sovereign borders Bill, which will be with us soon. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the impact assessment. The lack of an impact assessment is because this SI is purely about how UK officers operate in France. The noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, asked about children joining their parents. This is outlined in the existing Immigration Rules, in Appendix FM.

I hope that I have answered noble Lords questions as far as I can today. I will write to noble Lords if I have missed anything out. With that, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.