UK Border Agency split into two: A problem halved or doubled?

This month, the independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine, published a report into the relaxation of border security checks at UK airports and ports.  The fact that checks were being lifted to a greater extent than purportedly agreed by the Home Office came to light at the end of last year and caused serious outcry in both public and Parliament.

The report found ‘poor communication, poor managerial oversight and a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities’ which resulted in a lack of understanding amongst both ministers and frontline immigration officers, as to when and to what extent border checks could be suspended.  Vine stated there is ‘an urgent need to establish a new framework of border security checks’ and called for greater clarity and more effective communication between border staff, senior officials and ministers. 

These findings do not come as a surprise to us as there are clearly serious structural deficiencies in the way the UK Border Agency is organised and managed on a day-to-day basis.

In response, this week the Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement to the effect that the UK Border Force will be run independently from the UK Border Agency from March this year.  According to May, the Border Force will become ‘a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general, and accountable directly to ministers.’  Additionally, there will be a new National Crime Agency charged with investigating ‘serious and organised border crime’ in place from 2013.  

But will these be positive changes?  Clearly, the Home Secretary believes this re-organisation will allow the UK Border Force to concentrate on its work as a law enforcement body, unhindered by the problems within the UK Border Agency.  However, the risk is surely that creating two separate entities, who are together responsible for controlling migration into the UK, will cause more confusion and miscommunication.  We will be interested to see how these changes develop and whether they prove to create greater transparency and understanding or further mis-management and problems.

We recommend reading this article in the Guardian which dissects the split in greater detail and highlights potential causes for concern.

What do you think about these changes? Drop us a comment below…

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