The Minister of State for Immigration (Mark Harper): Border security is vital for the UK. Whilst it is right that the Government is in the lead on this, carriers and the transport sector as a whole have an important role to play. We are therefore strengthening our partnership with this sector on a broad range of border security issues. We are today launching a consultation on a package of proposals around the liability of carriers for bringing undocumented passengers to the UK. This consultation is an important part of this partnership process.
The cost to the UK of undocumented passengers can be high as many go on to claim asylum. There can also be a security risk as individuals wishing to come here for organised crime or terrorism purposes may view this as a potential method of entry. The policy objective of the proposals is to reduce the number of passengers arriving in the UK without proper documentation, and to do this by working in partnership with carriers.
The consultation document includes two key proposals. The first is to increase the level of the carriers’ liability charge from £2,000 per undocumented passenger to £7,000. Whilst this is a significant increase, the charge level has been at £2,000 for over 20 years and no longer reflects the costs and risks involved. The second is to introduce a new Approved Route incentives scheme for carriers. This includes a number of charge waivers if the carrier is engaging effectively with us on border security issues, including document checking and data submission.
The consultation will last for four weeks and is targeted at airline and ferry companies, industry representative bodies and passenger groups. The consultation document is available on the Home Office website and we have also placed copies in the House library.