Thursday 5 January 2012

Lin Homer, Brodie Clark and Ron Noble

Ron Noble, Secretary General of Interpol, is in London to discuss security arrangements for the Olympics.

He gave an interview to the Independent. Interpol maintains a database of lost and stolen passports, and:
Britain is the only EU country to systematically check passports against those registered as missing worldwide. Last year more than 11,000 people were caught trying to enter the UK using lost or stolen passports. Britain carries out more checks against the database than the rest of Europe combined – 140 million last year. France carried out the second highest number, at 10 million.

The UK Border Agency acknowledged the importance of the Interpol system, saying its high usage of the database was "indicative of the seriousness and priority we place on border security".
This is quite a turnaround.

In December 2004, Ron Noble lambasted the UK when he flew in and wasn't even asked for his passport number:
Interpol concern over UK borders
The head of Interpol has told of his "surprise" at shortcomings in the passport controls at UK borders.

Ron Noble, an American, said he was not asked for his passport serial number when he entered the UK.
The situation didn't improve and in July 2007 Ron Noble returned to the fray:
Interpol said last night that the UK makes just 50 checks a month of the database; France by comparison makes 700,000 checks and Switzerland makes 300,000 ...

Mr Noble said that Gordon Brown's promise last week to share a list of potential terrorists with other countries had yet to materialize. "British citizens might be surprised to find that this watch list announced by your prime minister last week has not been sent to Interpol," he said. "Why is it that some countries make sure passengers do not carry a bottle of spring water on to a plane, yet aren't careful to ensure convicted felons aren't entering their borders with stolen passports?"
Someone took up the matter with Lin Homer, Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency at the time. Ms Homer kindly wrote back and said that UKBA had started to use the Interpol database more frequently in 2007 and, by 2010:
Around 70 million checks are made against the database per year and to date there have been 13346 hits and 5108 documents seized.
The UK has gone from 600 checks p.a. against the Interpol database to 70 million and, now, to 140 million. You don't get a turnaround like that unless someone makes a determined effort. Who? Lin Homer. Well done, Lin Homer, and thank you. And thank you, Brodie Clark, sometime head of the UK Border Force.

After their Ron Noble interview, the Independent published a leading article on 30 December 2011. Does Lin Homer get a mention? No.

Brodie Clark does. Happy New Year to you, too:
Equally, although Mr Noble may have praised UK immigration controls compared with those of our neighbours, the British system is far from perfect. Only last month, the head of the border force quit in a row over a relaxation of security which the Home Secretary claimed had been done without her knowledge. That Brodie Clark is now suing for constructive dismissal only adds to the alarming sense of confusion and buck-passing in this vital area of national security.
The Independent regards the actions of UKBA and Interpol together as praiseworthy but Brodie Clark gets no recognition from the newspaper for his part in protecting the border by making use of the Interpol database.

Certain allegations have been made against Brodie Clark and he disputes them all. The matter is being investigated by the Home Affairs Committee, the Home Office has launched three internal investigations and, at some point, an employment tribunal will be convened. What are the results of all those quasi-judicial investigations? No-one knows but the Independent feels itself already justified in pointing the finger at Brodie Clark.

There is "confusion and buck-passing" there. But in their unbalanced coverage, the Independent have not identified the seat of that confusion.

Update 8 January 2011
Mazher Mahmood, 8 January 2011, Sunday TimesIllegals enter the UK on ‘passports for hire’:
  • Mr Mahmood identifies two people who got into the UK using other people's lost or stolen ID – a Sunday Times reporter and a lady who was sent to jail by Wood Green Crown Court in 2010. All the other illegal immigrants referred to in his article are in Greece, and not the UK. It looks as though UKBA are doing rather well, checking travel documents against the Interpol database.
  • Mr Mahmood's article includes a quotation from an unnamed senior police source asserting that biometric checks would be more effective – no evidence for that assertion is given. Has Mr Mahmood perhaps been deceived by an impostor, a biometrics technology salesman posing as a policeman?

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