Channel Migrant Crisis Declared a National Security Risk by Watchdog

TOPSHOT - A British police officer stands guard on the beach of Dungeness, on the southeas
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The “inexcusably awful” collection of data on illegal migrants landing in Britain after crossing the English Channel puts the UK’s national security at risk, a government watchdog has found.

A report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal found that there is a systemic failure by immigration authorities to properly collect information on illegal migrants entering the country, with some being allowed in without so much as being fingerprinted or having their identity checked to determine if they are a criminal or terrorist.

“Put simply, if we don’t have a record of people coming into the country, then we do not know who is threatened or who is threatening,” Neal said.

The report found that within a six month period some 227 migrants absconded from supposedly “secure” hotels after not having their biometric data logged by officials, making it exceedingly difficult for authorities to track down such individuals. Even the recording of names was mishandled by officials, with 978 or the 6,878 migrants who landed in November of last year having either symbols or numbers included in their surnames.

“Data, the lifeblood of decision-making, is inexcusably awful. Equipment to carry out security checks is often first-generation and unreliable,” Neal noted.

“It is the enrolled biometric which ‘locks’ the identity and essentially overrides the biographic information such as date of birth or name – if the latter is false, it does not matter as the biometrics mean the individual is known to the system,” the report added.

The failure of the government to properly track individuals claiming asylum comes despite previous instances of terrorism committed by asylum seekers in Britain, including Libyan national Khairi Saadallah who “executed” three men in an attack in Reading in 2020.

The age of migrants was merely checked by officials holding up a piece of cardboard with the numbers 1 to 63 written on it, to which the migrants would point to their alleged age, despite, the report noting, that many hailed from countries “in which the Roman alphabet was not used”. The age of migrants can be a critical issue, given that some adults impersonate children in order to increase their odds of being granted asylum.

Many migrants came ashore bearing weapons, including both knives and guns, which were confiscated at the border, though the report acknowledged that border officers were sometimes unaware of what type of physical searches of migrants were legal and therefore some weapons may have been missed.

In addition the national security risks posed to the public, the report also noted that the failures on the border also leave migrants vulnerable to human trafficking, saying: “Opportunities to identify victims of exploitation or trafficking were not taken by staff, and consequently possible referrals to law enforcement agencies onsite were not made.”

The independent watchdog blamed Priti Patel’s Home Office for the failures, saying that in the three years since the small boats crisis began, it has failed “to move from a crisis response to having better systems and procedures in place and treating this as business as usual.”

Commenting on the failures, Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who has long warned of the security risks posed by allowing thousands of  mostly young male, undocumented migrants to flood across the Channel, said: “This is a total disgrace. We are making a huge mistake, we must leave the ECHR and make our country safer.”

Farage said that the report “surpassed” all of his worst fears, raising concerns about how many absconding migrants are either fleeing criminal charges in other countries or believe in radical Islamist ideologies, saying: “This government, this Home Office are now a threat to our national security.”

Currently, the two candidates to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, have refused to commit to removing Britain from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which the UK is still bound by despite Brexit because the court is technically outside of the EU, despite being closely aligned. Last month, the European court blocked the deportation of illegal migrants to Rwanda based on an 11th hour appeal from an Iraqi national.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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