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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 July 2006, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Reid plans border-control force
Home Secretary John Reid
John Reid is overhauling the Home Office
A uniformed border-control force is to be introduced at ports and airports for the first time in the UK, Home Secretary John Reid has said.

The budget for immigration enforcement will also double to 280m by the end of the decade.

A Refugee Council spokesman said the money would be better spent on training asylum case workers than border police.

Details of the plans emerged as a report by MPs condemned current enforcement measures as "inadequate".

The home affairs select committee attacked the poor quality of decisions in individual cases, but also the apparent inability to remove those who should not be in the UK.

'Strengthening resources'

Shadow home secretary David Davis said he had been calling for a border control force for some years, but was worried the plans were "window dressing".

He said: "This is not just about uniform, it's about powers and whether we use all the people: the immigration officers, the customs officers, and the special branch who currently work in the ports as a part of that force; or whether it is just about uniforms.

"If it's just about uniforms, that's just window dressing."

He added: "What is necessary is a properly constituted and powerful border control police making use of all possible manpower to maximum effect to protect our borders and with it public safety."

Mr Reid, in an interview shown on GMTV on Sunday morning, said there had been a 72% reduction in the number of people seeking asylum in the UK.

It's clear to me that not just MPs, but IND itself, is frustrated by old ways of working and wants to change
Immigration minister Liam Byrne

And it now took eight weeks to deal with an asylum case, compared with 22 months in the past.

"We're now deporting more failed asylum seekers than are coming to this country," he said.

"But we need to do more and I intend to do more because next week what I want to do is to strengthen the resources for our border enforcement.

"We need a better, more forceful, more effective, more visible border enforcement."

'More humane'

A formal announcement on the policy is expected on Tuesday. Much of the extra cash is expected to be spent on more officers and better technology to track down illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants
John Denham says the illegal labour market should be targeted

Mr Reid added: "Those who can come to this country, who want to contribute as well as take something from it should be welcomed.

"But those who want to come in and take everything and give nothing and do it illegally, we don't want them here. And people are right to say that that should stop."

Ministers believe that putting passport control officers - who currently work in plain clothes - into uniform will act as a deterrent on would-be illegal immigrants.

But Refugee Council spokesman Tim Finch told BBC News: "Rather than uniformed border guards, why not invest in having a system that makes decisions much better the first time around? It's more cost-effective and much more humane."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg added: "We have long called for an integrated border police, so John Reid's announcement is most welcome.

"However, this must amount to more than a repackaging of existing customs officials in new uniforms.

"There needs to be a wholesale consolidation of the agencies presently responsible for customs, border control and transport policing into one integrated border force."

Corruption figures

In its report, the home affairs select committee called for profound cultural change in the way immigration is tackled in the country.

Committee chairman John Denham said the home secretary would need to target employers within the UK who give jobs to illegal immigrants.

He said: "If we really go after the people who employ legal labour, if we make sure [illegal immigrants] actually leave the country, then you can actually get a grip on the problem."

The MPs also published new figures revealing the extent of corruption made against the immigration system.

There were more than 700 allegations of corruption made between 2000-2005, leading to 409 investigations. As a result, 31 employees have been referred for prosecution and 79 for disciplinary action.


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Hear John Reid discuss his plans for a uniformed border-control force



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