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New passport checks run smoothly

The first day of passport checks for travellers leaving Britain has begun smoothly, with passengers passing through ports without delay.

There had been fears that the exit checks would lead to long queues at ports such as Dover.

But the Government decided on a phased introduction of the checks and this appears to have paid off.

A P&O Ferries spokeswoman at Dover said: "Everything is running smoothly and there are no delays."

For the first month, only 25% of passports will be fully checked, with this percentage moving to 50% after one month, and 100% by the middle of June.

Channel Tunnel company Eurotunnel has warned of border travel "coming to a standstill" in future years unless new smarter technology for the checks is introduced.

The Home Office has said the exit checks will improve the Government's understanding of who is leaving the UK and create "a much clearer picture of who is staying in the country when they have no right to be here".

They will also help the police and security services track the movements of known criminals and terrorists.

As well as at sea ports, the checks are being introduced at airports - but airlines will be providing advance passenger information from an individual's travel documents, so air passengers will not notice the new system in action.

Eurotunnel has moved to full 100% checks straightaway, with the company spending £2.5 million on new systems, with road markings altered and 50 new staff taken on.

Eurotunnel public affairs director John Keefe said: "Over the next five years we are looking at Eurotunnel growth of 20-25% in passengers and 30% in truck traffic. The Government's approach to managing the borders will bring them to a standstill - we need smarter technology."

Speaking about today's introduction of the checks, a Home Office spokesman said: "Due to the different environments and scale of operations at ports, delivery approaches will vary.

"The Home Office has worked with carriers and ports to allow them to introduce exit checks in a way that aligns with their existing systems, including taking a phased approach at some ports to help minimise the impact on customers and on port operations."

Speaking last month, Security and Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: "It is right that we have an immigration system that is fair, that tackles illegal immigration and that clamps down on those who try to cheat the system by staying here when they have no right to do so.

"Exit checks will provide us with vital information that confirms a person's exit from the UK. The coalition Government committed to reintroducing them in 2010 and the Immigration Act 2014 put in place legislation which gave carrier and port staff the powers to carry out these checks.

"Port and travel operators are experts in their business and know their customers best, which is why we've supported them to design and trial the systems for collecting data in a way that will minimise the impact on customers."


From Belfast Telegraph