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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 18:21 GMT
Row over asylum no-arrests claim
The headquarters of Britain's Immigration and Nationality Directorate
Occasions when immigration officers could not attend were 'rare'
A senior Tory has claimed the Home Office told police in north Wales not to hold illegal asylum seekers but to tell them to go an immigration office.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan told the House of Commons officials had even provided a "helpful map" pointing to a screening centre in Liverpool.

It is understood police arrested five men in a van earlier this year.

The Home Office said there were "rare occasions" when staff might not be able to attend after police made arrests.

It is understood that five men were found in the back of the van in north Wales, which had been stopped by police.

One of them was carrying a document that confirmed he had been refused permission to enter the UK days earlier.

Cheryl Gillan
Isn't this just another farce being played out by the Home Office but..threatening safety and security of people in Wales
Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan

The police arrested the men, said to come from Iraq and Iran, and took them to a police station.

Officers contacted the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) and were told to direct them to the asylum screening centre at Liverpool.

The case was raised in the Commons on Wednesday by Ms Gillan, the MP for Chesham and Amersham.

She said the Home Office officials had quoted the immigration and nationality directorate's operational enforcement manual.

The manual says: "Where an enforcement office is unable to offer assistance to the police in interviewing, for example, a group of clandestine illegal entrants... the police should be advised to direct them to the nearest Asylum Screening Unit."

Ms Gillan said: "Isn't this just another farce being played out by the Home Office but one that this time is threatening safety and security of people in Wales?"

'Best effect'

North Wales Police said chief constable Richard Brunstom has written to Home Secretary John Reid about the issue.

A force spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the chief constable wrote a personal letter to the home secretary about illegal immigration in north Wales some weeks ago. He is still waiting for an answer."

The Home Office said in a statement: "On the rare occasion when the IND are unable to attend, the police will record the details of the individuals concerned and pass them directly to the IND.

"Such occasions might include circumstances where immigration staff are engaged on an operation to target illegal working or removing failed asylum seekers.

"The issue here is about focusing resources to the best effect.

"We have already introduced a number of measures to make our borders more secure, however, there will inevitably be some occasions when clandestine entrants manage to penetrate our borders unlawfully."




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"They searched the lorry and found five people."



SEE ALSO
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