A whistle blower within the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Home Office told the Guardian that the Border Forces, the country’s immigration and custom control division, lack power deter potential terrorists from entering the U.K. The anonymous source noted that “clearskin” jihadi suspects who have remained under the radar pose the biggest threat to the country.
The news came along with a report from Scott Wilson, a senior U.K. Home Office official and coordinator of the Protect and Prepare counter-terrorism programs. He stated that 350 British citizens have returned from fighting in the Syria and Iraq with IS have returned to the U.K. and at least 70 of them are listed as “high” threat risks to the country. More than 800 British citizens have joined IS and gone off to fight in Iraq and Syria with them.
Research from the Henry Jackson Society think-tank showed that the U.K. that 77 Britons who have been convicted of terrorism since 1999, at least 27 had become trained or fought in war-torn countries overseas.
The Border Forces have “zero discretion” in interviewing or detaining travelers trying to re-enter the country if they hold a U.K. passport or are not “flagged” by British police or security services. The Terrorism Act of 2000 was supposed to give authority to border force personnel to stop, detain, question anyone they believe is “concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation acts of terrorism.”
However, those powers were never granted to the immigration and border forces. The anonymous source within the Home Office said it was a grave injustice that the Border Forces cannot use the powers granted to them under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. Border forces can only detain travelers if their name appears on the “Warning Index” database, they are wanted for arrest, or they are carrying contra band like, extremist literature.
A Home Office official noted that Schedule 7 is used by counter-terrorism police at ports and is not meant for Border Forces reviewing passports. He also noted that authorization of schedule 7 was used by authorities on British nationals and non-British travelers 27,000 times in 2015.
David Burrowes, a conservative member of the Home Affairs Select Committee that oversees the Border Forces, believes that Border Forces should be given police powers to maintain safety and security of the U.K.
A report from the Manchester Evening News on April 13, 2016, found that Border Forces power is so limited that 147 passengers on a Ryanair flight were allowed to leave the airport without their passports being reviewed.
On Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Home Office Secretary Theresa May announced that two million pounds would be cut from Border Force’s. She claims that budget cuts to Border Forces fall in line the country’s budget plan. The BBC reported a story about a report from chief border inspector David Bolt who in June 2015 noted that the Border Forces had only one vessel patrolling U.K. waters .The ports of Kent and Sussex are seeing more migrants are trying to enter the country including a dinghy of Iranian migrants that had to rescued.
Mrs. May noted hat in the next four years the government will invest $130 million pounds on state-of-the-art technology at the border. This technology may be too little and too late considering that the U.K. already has jihadists within its borders.
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