More than 4,000 high risk flights are being missed by Border Force officials each year, a new study estimates, raising fears crime gangs, drug traffickers and even terrorists could be using lax security to enter the country.
The UK’s Border Force is in disarray after years of neglect, while the rising number of passengers has stretched the organisation to breaking point, the Adam Smith Institute warns.
While passenger numbers through Britain’s ports and airports have risen by a fifth this decade and are expected to rise by another 43 per cent by 2030, funding for border checks has been slashed, the think tank says.
Britain’s Border Force is not equipped to quickly, accurately and securely monitor passengers in and out of Britain, the report warns.
Border officials aim to check 99 per cent of inbound high risk flights, for example where passenger lists have not been submitted in advance and the identities of those on board are unknown.
But the report found some days up to 7.5 per cent of such flights, or the equivalent of as many as 4,197 a year, are not met by agents or checked on databases.
The report said known terrorists like Islamic State’s Siddhartha Dhar had been able to leave Britain through smaller ports, airports and Eurotunnel, where security is known to be less strict.
Sam Bowman, executive director of the institute, said: A successful Border Force needs to do two things: keep people out of the country who should not be allowed in, and do so without causing unnecessary disruption to other passengers.
In both these respects the Border Force is not succeeding. Its security systems are out of date, overstretched and failing to cover all passengers adequately. It’s astonishing that potentially thousands of high-risk flights are not being checked properly by the Border Force.
The Telegraph earlier this year launched a new Border Security campaign and published an open letter from top anti-terror policemen and experts calling for a review of protections at the border.
Ed West, co author of the paper, said: Brexit is unlikely to mean a reduction in immigration. Visitor numbers are only likely to increase as Asia’s middle class grows, and it’s vital that we not only successfully attract visitors and investors from around the world but that the public can trust the system in place to protect us.
The Home Office rejected the study’s calculations as “inaccurate and highly misleading”.
A spokeswoman said Border Force officers carried out “detailed risk assessments and our officers physically meet any flight considered to be high risk.
“In addition, we work with domestic and international partners to gather intelligence and target suspicious activity in the skies and seas.”
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