Home Secretary Priti Patel plans to take a leaf out of the US book and resort to a tough Washington-style immigration policy to make Britain off-limits to people who potentially pose a threat to the country, writes the Daily Mail.
In line with the reported plans seeking to block dangerous people from entering before they board UK-bound flights, every overseas visitor will first have to face a criminal background check.
The screening measures are set to apply to travellers from EU member states as well, as they have their details automatically checked against watch lists and criminal databases.
Accordingly, those who have previously committed crimes will have their applications reviewed to decide if they should be let in.
The plans are reportedly to be modelled on the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) - an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
ESTA was ‘mandated by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 for travellers from VWP countries arriving in the US by air or sea’. The application gathers biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions. Accordingly, those going to the US must submit an online application at least 72 hours before travel and pay a $14 (£10) fee.
The UK recommendations are slated to be published later month and included in the UK Sovereign Borders Bill in the summer.
Currently, stays of up to six months for overseas travellers to Britain from almost 90 countries, including EU member states, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, do not require a visa.
The lenient measures reportedly leave British officials blindsided, as they scramble to assemble enough information about the prospective arrivals before they show up at the border.
Hundreds of foreign offenders, among them killers, rapists and paedophiles, are said to have entered Britain unimpeded in 2020 without being subjected to any checks, as their prior convictions came to light only after they were arrested on UK soil.
Over 2,000 of these criminal offenders were subsequently apprehended over a three-year period after arrival.
While passport details of EU nationals are checked against a 'watchlist' of suspected terrorists and foreign criminals upon crossing the border, only high-profile offenders are likely to raise potential convictions, states the outlet.
From now on, however, the new plan will envisage everyone who is not a British or Irish citizen to complete an online 'permission to travel' form as part of a new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme.
Airlines will be entrusted with banning people from flights unless they have filled in the requisite papers, where they declare if they were previously arrested or convicted of certain crimes, violated drugs laws or engaged in terrorism or espionage.
There is no information yet as to how long in advance of travel the details will have to be submitted, what criteria will be used for blocking prospective arrivals, and what the application fee might be.
“For too long our borders haven't been as secure as they should have been. Now we have ended free movement and introduced our points-based system, we can add an extra level of security to our borders with these electronic travel authorisations and keep out people who want to come here and cause harm,” a Home Office source was quoted as saying.
The plans come as part of an effort to beef up Britain's borders as Priti Patel vowed late last year to fix the “fundamentally broken” UK asylum system, promising “the biggest overhaul” in decades.
The developments also coincide with a surge in arrivals as over 650 people crossed the Channel in small boats so far during 2021. This is double the number registered during the same period in 2020.
Plan to ‘Offshore’ Asylum Seekers
To be announced by Priti Patel as part of a radical overhaul of the country's border policies, the UK Sovereign Borders Bill will also ostensibly include controversial plans to ‘offshore’ asylum seekers who arrive in the country to processing centres abroad.
The migrants would remain there until they could be repatriated to either their home country, or the one they travelled from originally.
Among locations under consideration are reportedly the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and other islands off the British coast, wrote The Times.
Gibraltar CM @FabianPicardo continues his day of media interviews and tells @SkyNews that as UK plans to send asylum seekers abroad this is not something #Gibraltar can realistically help with. No reply today to his letter to @pritipatel pic.twitter.com/hzGiVi4Wn2— James Neish (@JamesNeish) March 18, 2021
Meanwhile, the new proposals could see migrants arriving in the UK from countries deemed safe, such as France, barred from making an asylum claim, according to the Daily Mail.
After leaving the European Union, the UK is no longer bound by the bloc’s Dublin regulation. In accordance with the latter, it could redirect asylum seekers to countries within the EU bloc to have their applications processed.
Now, legislation is called upon to redefine the UK's post-Brexit asylum rules.
British Red Cross slammed such plans, warning that "offshoring" asylum claims would "do nothing to address the reasons people take dangerous journeys in the first place".
However, the plans were earlier hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as able to 'save life and avert human misery' as he spoke at a Downing Street briefing on Thursday.
"The objective is a humanitarian one and a humane one, which is to stop the abuse of these people by a bunch of traffickers and gangsters," he added.