Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/23/gamma_scanner_ban/

Illegal immigrants spared the gamma-ray scanner

French ban Calais lorry probes

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 23rd January 2008 13:03 GMT

The French have banned Brit border guards at Calais from deploying immigrant-hunting gamma-ray scanners, claiming they breach EU health and safety regulations and can only be used with the intended targets' written permission.

According to the Evening Standard, the scanners have proved somewhat successful in cutting the numbers of illegals entering the UK via France, contributing to an 88 per cent reduction in those reaching Dover in 2006.

The machines, costing £2m a pop, sweep along the exterior of lorries, revealing any illicit human cargo within, but deliver "less than a thousandth of the background radiation" anyone in their path would normally receive in a year.

The French, however, scoured the newly-introduced "Euratom" regs, designed to protect the public from radiation, and decreed the scanners cannot not be used without the immigrants first agreeing to be irradiated.

The Evening Standard notes: "Given that the illegal immigrants do not want to be found, the chances of reaching such an agreement are zero, leaving the British no choice but to stop using the machines."

A British government spokesman said: "The UK does not think that is necessary and nor do the Belgians where we also operate one of these scanners. The gamma ray scanners emit less radiation than ordinary hospital X-rays - we can't see what the problem is."

The Brits have operated border controls in Calais since 2002, and also use thermal-imaging devices and carbon dioxide detectors to flush out undesirables. ®