Consuls demand more access to UKBA

Consuls have appealed for better cooperation with the UK Border Agency, saying they felt like “ping-pong balls” when seeking information from the organisation.

Their frustration with the agency emerged at a recent meeting of the Consular Corps, where consuls were able to discuss their concerns with Alan Kittle, the Director of Returns at the UKBA.

In particular officials were said they found it difficult to obtain information from the UKBA about the deportation of foreign offenders who had served out their custodial sentences.

Mr Kittle explained that the UK does not provide information on the reception or the return of foreign offenders without their permission, unless the country has signed a data-sharing Bilateral Consular Agreement with the UK.

Consuls pointed out that when foreign nationals were being prepared for deportation, insufficient background checks were conducted by the UKBA to establish the true identity of returning nationals in order for the consulate to issue emergency travel documents.

Some were concerned that a high proportion – up to a third of the emergency travel documents issued by consulates – were not used due to legal proceedings.

Consuls also questioned the timing of the recent decision to create a separate UK Border Force under the direct control of the Home Office, following border security lapses last summer. They expressed concerns that this would have a negative impact on airport congestion during the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Kittle said the recommendation to create a separate border force was because the UKBA had become “too unwieldy”.

But he assured consuls that although the UK Border Force had a separate command reporting directly to ministers at the Home Office, it was “business as usual” at the UKBA.