April 8, 2015 -
The Home Office in the UK has implemented a new initiative in which data on all travelers leaving the UK at ports and border crossings will be collected and given to the agency, according to a report by the BBC.
The new rules are part of the Immigration Act 2014, which currently allows the government to collect data on passengers flying in and out of the UK.
The new exit checks will now extend this data collection to all passengers leaving by any commercial air, sea and rail transport. Meanwhile, all passengers entering the UK will remain subject to passport checks.
The initiative will especially impact cross-channel ferry and Channel Tunnel travelers, as the government said these checks were essential to combating illegal immigration.
Early reports show that the new checks have not caused any significant issues, with no delays at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone or P&O Ferries’ terminal in Dover.
During the first month of exit checks, border authorities will scan all passports while verifying the credentials of only a quarter of the passport holders in order to limit disruption.
After the initial month, authorities will verify the credentials of 50% of passport holders before finally extending it to 100% of all passport holders by the middle of June.
The UK government has called the exit checks “predominately an immigration and data tool” to provide a “comprehensive picture” of whether travelers are leaving the country when they are required to.
The government said the data — collected by airline, rail or ferry operator staff — will “improve our ability to identify and further tighten the immigration routes and visas that are most vulnerable to abuse”, as well as help security services “track the movements of known or suspected criminals and terrorists”.
The new exit checks applies to all travelers except for school coach parties of European Economic Area children under the age of 16.
Eurotunnel, which manages and operates the Channel Tunnel, will begin implementing 100% verification checks from the start, as well as asking passengers to provide Advance Passenger Information (API) prior to travel.
“It will enable the government, for the first time in a long time, to have an idea of who’s left in Britain, because up until recently it’s not been possible for the government to know who’s overstayed their visa and who’s remained in the country, and they’ve not known who’s here and who’s left,” said John Vine, former independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.