Passport checks on those leaving the UK by ferry or via the Channel Tunnel have been introduced across the country from today – Wednesday 8th April. There are fears that the new measures could cause long queues as every passenger in a car or coach will need to have their passport scanned.
The data is being collected by the Home Office in a bid to fight illegal immigration and help police and security services track criminals and terrorists. However, the measures are being introduced gradually to minimise any possible disruption to travellers. For the first month all passports will be scanned but only 25 per cent of the passport holders will have their details verified to ensure they are genuine. After a month this will rise to 50 per cent and by the middle of June, 100 per cent verification will be introduced.
John Keefe, director of Public Affairs for Eurotunnel UK, which manages and operates the Channel Tunnel, said £2.5m has been spent preparing for the new checks. He told the BBC that the exit checks should not cause travel disruption. He explained: “No, they (travellers) shouldn’t expect longer queues. The investments we have made have been specifically made in the interests of customer service.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “They have picked a quiet day for the introduction of the checks. The actual scanning of passports is quick, it’s the verification that takes longer. We are hoping that there will be a fairly seamless transition to the new system.”
John Vine, former independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, told BBC Breakfast: “It will enable the government, for the first time in a long time, to have an idea of who’s left in Britain, because up until recently it’s not been possible for the government to know who’s overstayed their visa and who’s remained in the country, and they’ve not known who’s here and who’s left.”