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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

UK border police allowed to use 'reasonable force' to obtain migrants’ fingerprints

New post-Brexit legislation created to fix Britain’s broken asylum system

Thousands of migrants crossed the English Channel from northern France in 2020 and Britain is working to reduce the number. AFP
Thousands of migrants crossed the English Channel from northern France in 2020 and Britain is working to reduce the number. AFP

British border police will be given powers to use “reasonable force” to obtain fingerprints from migrants trying to cross the English Channel.

Home Office legislation is being put through Parliament that will empower Border Force officers with the authority to identify an immigrant to be able to speed up deportations.

People caught attempting to use the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk to get to Britain may now have their fingerprints taken by force – and face the possibility of being denied entry.

The biometric data is seen as an important tool to deport immigrants who arrive illegally in Britain hidden in lorries or boats across the Channel.

Once they have fingerprints British officials will be able to prove that the immigrants have travelled through so-called safe countries, such as the Netherlands or France, with matching sets taken in those countries.

A Home Office spokesman said: "If we have fingerprints that prove someone was in France who is later encountered in the UK that can be key in declaring their cases inadmissible."

These nations are subsequently under legal obligation to accept the deportees upon their return.

New laws in place since Brexit void an application should the asylum seeker have passed through a safe country before arriving in Britain.

The person can then be returned to the original country – such as France – where the authorities will then have to consider their application.

Also under new post-Brexit laws, the Border Force and Royal Navy vessels that intercept the small boats carrying migrants during calmer weather in summer will now have the power to turn the vessels back to the continent immediately rather than processing the asylum seekers in Britain.

The government believes that the tougher measures will deter people from trying to cross, after a record number of 8,410 migrants were intercepted in 2020, four times the previous year’s number.

Immigration into Britain was one of the key reasons why many people voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum but the Covid crisis has also shown how dependent the country is on migrant workers.

“Today's move builds on steps we have already taken to reform the asylum system, to strengthen border controls and reduce illegal migration,” said Immigration Minister Chris Philp. “It builds on the inadmissibility rules laid before Parliament last month, with fingerprints collected by Border Force at the juxtaposed controls expected to form an important part of the evidence base in determining inadmissible cases.

“These measures will help reduce the strain on asylum staff, allowing them to focus on processing genuine claims from those in need of help,” he said. “This government is fixing our broken asylum system to deliver a firmer and fairer system.”

Updated: January 20, 2021 07:34 PM

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