Yvette Cooper has asked why the Home Office ordered border staff to cut back on immigration and customs checks at an Urgent Question at PMQs today.
The Shadow Home Secretary has pointed to a new National Audit Office (NAO) report, which says UK border staff were ordered to stop searching for illegal immigrants and drugs, and deal with passport queues instead, saying:
“The NAO found drops in checks for illegal migrants and criminal activity because of the Home Secretary’s irresponsible decision to cut 500 Border Force staff prior to the Olympics […] Theresa May has been warned repeatedly about growing problems with illegal immigration and about the scale and pace of border force cuts. This report shows she hasn’t listened.”
The border checks at Calais are real cause for concern, warns the NAO report. The NAO report’s authors wrote:
“In Calais, we observed officers being taken off controls to detect clandestine illegal entrants to the UK concealed in lorries in order to deal with passenger queues.” On one occasion, border checks at Calais were stopped 3 times in 2 days as Border Agency staff were diverted to other tasks. Yvette Cooper said: “We already raised concerns that illegal migrants caught on lorries in Calais were not being finger printed. Now it is clear they often weren’t being checked at all.”
Louise Bladen, the director of the National Audit Office, told the BBC:
“Border Force may find it hard to say what may be coming into the country as a result of not being able to fully do the duties that they need to do.”
According to the NAO report, UK border staff had to report daily to Home Secretary Theresa May about the length of border queues and lived in a ‘culture of fear’. The NAO report found that Border Force morale was ‘exceptionally low’.
Yvette directed her Urgent Question to Home Secretary Theresa May, who issued the instructions, but it was Immigration Minister Mark Harper who responded.