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PROGRESS CONTINUES ON SECURING UK BORDERS

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The government is delivering on its pledges set out in its five year strategy for asylum and immigration published ...
The government is delivering on its pledges set out in its five year strategy for asylum and immigration published a year ago this month, which includes continuing to develop and strengthen measures to tighten UK borders.

This ongoing work recognises the importance of maintaining public confidence in the immigration and asylum system by allowing immigration where it is in the country's interests and preventing it where it is not.

Immigration control begins before a person arrives in the UK, when those who require visas are subject to rigorous checks. These checks have been enhanced by the establishment of 14 risk assessment units at selected posts overseas, further units are expected to become operational in 2006 ensuring an intelligence-led approach to tackling organised visa abuse. Trials of biometric fingerprint scanning have also begun with the new checks been carried out in Sri Lanka, countries in East Africa and, most recently, Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Netherlands. There are plans to implement the programme globally by 2008.

In the past year 15 new Airline Liaison Officers (ALO) posts have also been established in airports around the globe, where they offer advice on fraudulent documents and inadequately documented passengers and prevent people intent on abusing the UK's immigration controls from entering the country. There are now a total of 45 ALOs around the world, the most recent established in Shanghai in October last year. The expansion of this network has also contributed to a 47 per cent reduction in inadequately documented arrivals at UK airports.

Project Semaphore was established last year to record details of passengers intending to enter or leave the UK before they begin their journey and preventing them from entering the UK where necessary. The scheme has been expanded, and currently covers 32 routes, 16 carriers operating out of eight ports. In January 2005 when the system was launched the scheme just covered two routes and one carrier. Key commitments which have been achieved since the publication of the five year strategy on February 7 2005 include:

* the successful passage of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill through the House of Commons;

* the consultation on a new points-based system for work and study routes to the UK;

* the roll-out of Risk Assessment Units in visa-issuing posts overseas;

* the continued roll-out of biometric finger-scanning;

* a start to targeted health screening in high-risk countries;

* increasing numbers of failed asylum seekers being removed from the UK, comparing the third quarter of 2004 with the third quarter of 2005, figures rose by 10 per cent;

* increasing the number of voluntary returns of those in the UK illegally;

* implementation of the New Asylum Model to speed-up asylum applications;

* introduction of life in the UK tests for new citizens; and

* establishing the Joint Education Taskforce to build links between the Government when developing migration policy and the education sector.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said:

'Implementation of our five year strategy on immigration and asylum, Controlling our borders: Making Migration work for Britain, is a key Government priority. A system that is strictly controlled, fair and works in the economic interests of Britain is what the public wants to see and see working well, and I recognise that fact.

'Since publishing our strategy we have built on our existing fast track detention facilities, opening a new female fast track facility at Yarl's Wood in May 2005 developing our ability to take decisions on asylum more quickly as part of our New Asylum Model. By the end of

2006 all new asylum applications will be dealt with under the scheme.

'Meanwhile, voluntary returns have also increased. Between April and December 2005 there were 2,511 returns under the Government's voluntary assisted returns programme and it is estimated that by the end of March 2006 the number of people who leave the UK through the scheme will be between 3500 and 4000.

'Today's announcement isn't just about the Government's achievements in the past year, much of which reflects the hard work of the Immigration Service, but also about the ongoing work the Government is undertaking. We are committed to taking the necessary steps and making the changes needed to see the job through to the end.'

In the past 12 months the Government has published and seen through its consultation on a new points-based system for work and study to the UK - a key element of its five year strategy. The new system will ensure that Britain attracts the skilled labour force it needs to perform key jobs in areas such as engineering, the financial sectors and education.

The Government's response to that consultation will be published in the coming weeks, enabling employers, educational institutions and prospective migrants to see how the new five-tiered scheme will work in practice. The response will recognise the widespread view communicated during the consultation process that the current system is too complex and bureaucratic.

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will provide the necessary legislative basis for those parts of the strategy which require primary legislation.

Work is ongoing to implement the provisions set out in the five year strategy and the Government is committed to delivering the provisions it has promised to ensure public confidence in its asylum and immigration systems.

Notes

1. Controlling our borders: Making migration work for Britain, the Government's five year strategy for asylum and immigration was published on 7 Feburary 2005

2. Tackling abuse, implementing change: Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, was published on 22 June 2005.

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