A Student Perspective: The Role of the UK Border Force and its Component Parts

Nowadays, the interconnection of the world is becoming much more frequently and closed than ever before. Consequently, the security of the each country’s territory prioritises the other activities across the nations. It is clear that the effective home land security has been playing the vital part in the overall country routine management across the world. Securing the borders and protecting the communities from crime is a huge challenge and vitally important to the UK. The UK government perceive that it is urgent for authority to codify the guideline and to establish a specific agency or law enforcement to implement the government’s policy. The UK Border Force is such an arm of the government which was to counter the national border issue, e.g. human trafficking, drug and other counterfeit smuggling, counter-terrorism and illegal fishing.

The UK Border Force, acting as frontline force to tackle operation of air, sea and rail port, was a part of the Home office. The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 following Labour Home Secretary John Reid’s 2006 declaration that the Home Office’s immigration directorate was “not fit for purpose”. On 20 February 2012, it was announced that the force would be separated from the UK Border Agency in March that year. The decision to split the two organisations was made by Home Secretary Theresa May following the publication of the Vine Report into unauthorised border checks. Since 1 March 2012, the Border Force has become the sole law operational unit apart from the home office which is led by the Director General and directly liable to the Minister. The new interim head of the Border Force, Chief Constable Brian Moore, officially took up office on Thursday, 01 Mar 2012 who will lead the newly formed Home Office operational command and will be responsible for immigration and customs.

The UK Border Agency will be responsible for immigration casework, in-country enforcement activity, the immigration detention estate and British overseas immigration operations. Since transform of the agency, the main task of the Border Force is to maintain the security of the UK’s border as well as the passage and cargo’s normal circulation. However, the immigration policy work will be separated from the operational unit which imply that the policy maker would not know the press and obstacle of the implementation front line unit. The bad example was demonstrated last year during the Olympic time when the traveller had to queue for four hours before they entered into the UK at airport. In spite of this, the UK Border Force still makes tremendous effort to manage the flow of passengers and goods through the border and maintains border security by straining the control in France and Belgium as well as modernise the workforce with technology. To some extent, the work of Border Force also facilitates legitimate travel and trade, helping to protect UK tax revenue and support economic recovery. Hence, to meet these high demand both in peak and tough season, the Border Force take relevant measures, e.g. annualising hours contracts, deploying staff more efficiently by developing a resourcing model and matching staff skills with the level of work being undertaken.

To sum up, to transform the operations and make sustainable large-scale cost reductions, the following approach will be taken by the Border Force: (a) issuing an operating policy on the use of Secure ID fingerprint checks as well as implementing a new operating mandate for border control; (b) creating a Strategy and Intelligence Directorate in order to analyse intelligence; measure performance; develop rules, procedures and guidance; and monitor compliance with those rules; (c) the operation of a newly established Training Academy in order to raise professional standards and to create a whole new management culture. Furthermore, later on this year, the new National Crime Agency will be charged with improving the intelligence capability at the border, investigating serious and organised border crime, and tasking law enforcement assets across all the relevant agencies; and (d) a greater use of technology: implementing a range of technology-based changes under the e-borders programme, including extending the use of e-gates and several changes are going to take place in the coming years. Changes will include increased use of e-gates and other new technology under the e-borders programme, with greater reliance on intelligence and carefully managed risk-based controls at the border.

With a new chief executive and a plan for comprehensive change, the UK Border Force is in better hands for the future and will become the disciplined law enforcement organisation it was established to be.

Yifeng Liu, MA International Maritime Policy Student