Passport checks for those leaving the UK will begin today as part of a drive to combat illegal immigration.
Exit checks will take place at all airports and ports in the UK with data from passports and travel documents collected from those leaving on scheduled commercial, international air, sea and rail routes.
The Home Office say this will allow them to gain the most “comprehensive picture we have ever had of whether those who enter the UK leave when they are supposed to.”
The strategy is designed to “identify and tighten” the immigration routes and visa classifications that are most vulnerable to abuse.
The government says the checks are “predominantly an immigration and data tool” but will also be used to “improve national security by helping police and security services track the movements of known or suspected criminals and terrorists.”
It says it has been “working closely” with ports and carriers who have been collecting exit check data since 2013 in order to help design a system which meets the requirements of both government and businesses.
James Brokenshire, Minister for Security and Immigration, said it was “right” that the country had “an immigration system that is fair, that tackles illegal immigration and that clamps down on those who try to cheat the system by staying here when they have no right to do so.
“Exit checks will provide us with vital information that confirms a person’s exit from the UK. The coalition Government committed to reintroducing them in 2010 and the Immigration Act 2014 put in place legislation which gave carrier and port staff the powers to carry out these checks,” he added.
In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme, John Keefe, director of public affairs for Eurotunnel UK said an “awful lot” had been done to prepare for the changes which were scheduled to start after the Easter weekend to minimise disruption.
He said that about £2.5 million had been spent on measures to meet the new requirements including new buildings and additional staff. He said people “shouldn’t expect longer queues.”
Le Shuttle operator said the company was “ready for exit checks” saying that customers “should turn up as usual for their booked departure.”
A spokesman for the Port of Dover, which handles £100 bullion of UK-European trade each year, said they were seeking to “accommodate exit checks and minimise disruption to the town and the Port of Dover.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast John Vine, the former independence Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration said the measure would provide useful information.
“It will enable the government, for the first time in a long time, to have an idea of who’s left in Britain, because up until recently it’s not been possible for the government to know who’s overstayed their visa and who’s remained in the country, and they’ve not known who’s here and who’s left.”