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Immigration spy centre hit by staff delays

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The opening of the operations centre at the heart of a new £1.2bn computer system - planned to monitor every person who enters or leaves of the UK - has been delayed by staff training.

The National Border Targeting Centre (NBTC), the Manchester clearing house for the e-Borders programme, was scheduled to open this month. According to the Home Office, it will now begin operations sometime in the first three months of next year.

"The NBTC will be ready later this month but to allow for staff training, it will not be operational until the first quarter of 2010," it said in a statement.

The centre will employ 250 "match analysts" who will judge the strength of computer-generated alerts when a traveller is flagged as suspicious against a domestic or international watch list. They will also decide which law enforcement or intelligence agency each alert should be passed on to.

The Home Office didn't say why training will be completed later than expected.

The minimum educational requirement for a match analyst is two GCSEs. Once their training is complete they will earn less than £15,000. According to the recruitment page, final interviews for the jobs were completed back in early August.

The NBTC will also be staffed by police, SOCA, HMRC and MI5.

The Home Office said that during the match analyst training delays, the e-Borders programme would be run from the Joint Borders Operation Centre (JBOC) at Heathrow.

"In the meantime, it will be business as usual," a spokeswoman said.

Ministers have planned for the e-Borders programme to monitor 95 per cent of journeys into and out of the UK by this time next year. It is being implemented by a private consortium of technology firms led by Raytheon Systems. ®

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