Feeds

UK e-Borders scheme thrown into confusion by EU rules

Non to mandatory screening, Brussels tells UK.gov

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Conflicts with EU free movement rules have thrown the UK's £1.2 billion electronic borders program into disarray.

The e-borders scheme is designed to collect the personal data of every passenger travelling into and out of Britain. This means, for example, that someone flying from the UK to Spain needs to submit their name, date of birth and passport details ahead of a flight and well before they got to the airport, or face the risk of being prevented from boarding.

Passenger data was checked against terrorist watch lists and used for immigration controls. However concerns have arisen that the mandatory controls violate EU rules on free movement. That means that passengers are no longer obliged to hand over travel credential information in the days running up to their flight while airlines are freed of the obligation to refuse to carry passengers that decline to pass over their details, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Instead the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will check passengers once they arrive. Refusing to provide travel credential details will no longer become sufficient reasons to refuse entry, to EU citizens at least.

The scheme, which was in the process of roll-out and was not expected to be complete until 2014, has effectively been nipped in the bud. Possible problems with the scheme emerged after the Home Office sought assurances that asking for passenger information well ahead of flights was within EU rules and became public after the EU response was considered by MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee.

A report from the Home Affairs Select Committee warns the e-border scheme may be illegal if compulsory because it potentially violates EU laws on the free movement of people and goods between EU member states. "Commitments and assurances" made by the UK authorities mean the scheme itself is fine and it's just the compulsory element that's the problem, rather than any issues over data security and privacy.

A letter, from Jonathan Faull, director general of the European Commission's Justice, Freedom and Security department, states that Passengers must be informed in advance that handing over the information is "is neither compulsory nor... a condition of purchase and sale of the ticket", The Daily Telegraph adds.

"Passengers who are EU citizens or their family members will not be refused entry/exit or incur sanctions in any way on the basis that their passenger data is unavailable to the UK authorities for whatever reason," the letter adds.

Advanced passenger information includes data normally required for border checks, This includes the name, gender, date of birth, nationality and country of residence of travellers.

If the scheme is purely voluntary it will lose its value because criminals of whatever ilk could simply ignore it. Opposition politicians criticised the government for ploughing millions into the scheme prior to properly investigating its legality with EU officials.

Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, told The Telegraph: "It seems extraordinary that, this long into a seven-year contract that costs more than £1 billion, the Government hasn't established whether it can impose this system on travellers, and it looks from this letter as it cannot.

"This is a huge embarrassment for ministers. They have set up this elaborate, hugely expensive system and the Commission is telling them it only works if people volunteer," he added.

Phil Woolas MP, the Border and Immigration Minister, denied suggestions that the e-Borders scheme is not compliant with EU law. In a statement, Wollas defended the scheme as enabling the "arrest of murderers, rapists and the barring of would-be illegal immigrants". He doesn't touch on how the government might be obliged to make the scheme voluntary and how this might limit its effectiveness.

"e-Borders is fully compliant with EU law and this has been confirmed by the European Commission. This allows us to continue our efforts to secure our border by counting people in and out. e-Borders has already screened over 137 million passenger journeys leading to over 4,700 arrests since 2005." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.