Border Force FOI response on ePassport gates (18 May 2020)

ILPA documents | Economic Migration

In December 2019, we submitted a freedom of information request in relation to ePassport gates. The Home Office has now responded.

*UPDATE* 24 June 2020 – we requested an internal review of this decision as below:

Request for internal review: FOI 56980

I am writing to request an internal review of the above FOI request to which I received a response on 27 April 2020 in the attached documents (and the accompanying email chain is below this email). My request is in respect of the following matters.

Letter dated 27 April 2020

In relation to the answer to question 5 in the letter, which relates to the situation of an individual who presents to an ePassport gate with extant leave to enter or remain, you have indicated that this is answered by your answer to question 2. However, this would appear to suggest that a person with, for example, leave to remain as a student under Tier 4 of the Immigration Rules (rather than an entry clearance) who enters via ePassport gates is in the UK with leave to enter as a visitor, which is not our understanding of how the scheme is designed to work. Our understanding is that such an individual’s leave to remain under Tier 4 would remain extant by virtue of section 3(4) Immigration Act 1971 which would prevent such leave lapsing on the individual going to a country or territory outside the common travel area. I would be grateful if this could be internally reviewed and you could provide further clarification on this issue.

Annex B

1. On page 6, there are redactions as to what is considered essential or desirable training for Roving Officers. In your letter of 27 April 2020, you rely on section 31(1)(a) and (e) FOIA to make these reductions, stating that the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption rather than disclosure. This is stated to be because disclosure would “offer hints and tips to criminals on how to circumvent the UK immigration controls”. However, it is unclear how disclosure of the training offered to Roving Officers would have such a consequence: why would a list of the training Officers receive be relevant to this?

There is a risk that the information as currently presented gives the impression that the redacted materials could relate to activity that would lead ultimately to the potential punishment or criminalisation of potential victims of trafficking. Victims are often told by abusers that if they reveal their true circumstances to a law enforcement professional or government official then they will be deported, detained and punished. The public interest therefore lies in disclosing the information either to (i) dispel this impression if it is false; or (ii) ensure victims and those supporting them are aware of this in order to advise properly. The disclosure as it currently stands may have the effect of reducing trust and confidence in the protective role of the UK. In your response in your consideration of the public interest limb, this factor was not considered.

2. The same concern applies in relation to the redactions on page 8 which list the legislation relevant to the Roving Officer role. It is unclear why disclosing which legislation Officers will rely on is not in the public interest. This is an important matter relating to the rule of law: public bodies must be transparent as to which laws they purport to rely on. It also gives rise to the same impression as above in relation to the potential for Officers to be relying on legislation that could result in the criminalisation of victims of trafficking.

3. Finally, on page 12 there are further redactions relating to the recording of information. The public interest lies in transparency as to what information is recorded against individuals, which is protected by Article 8 ECHR. Further, potential victims of trafficking may be concerned about information being recorded about them without their knowledge. This also contributes towards distrust in public authorities as above.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you require further clarification in respect of my request. I look forwarding to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Charles Bishop

Charles Bishop

Legal and Parliamentary Officer