Border Force to Shut at Weekends

David Leppard, London Times, March 2, 2008

OFFICERS in Britain’s new border force have been told they should not arrest illegal immigrants and foreign criminals at weekends or on bank holidays.

To cut costs, the new Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) has told them only a minimum number of staff should be on weekend duty to answer essential calls.

Staff are entitled to extra payments for weekend working but the agency is trying to save £80m-£100m to keep its budget in line with Treasury edicts.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said it exposed as a sham Gordon Brown’s claims that the new agency would secure Britain’s borders.

John Tincey, vice-president of the Immigration Service Union, which represents 4,000 immigration staff, said it would make Saturdays and Sundays virtually an “open season” for offenders.

The arrangements, due to take effect on April 1, are detailed in a memo to the agency’s 1,500 enforcement staff. It says “no operational visits will be scheduled at weekends or on bank or public holidays” without giving three weeks’ notice and obtaining the express written consent ofa senior BIA director.

The new arrangements will not affect the manning of immigration desks at ports and air-ports, which is handled by a different division within the BIA.

However, it will mean efforts to track down foreign criminals to be deported, failed asylum seekers and others who have slipped past port controls will effectively stop at weekends.

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