Every year, more than 200 million passengers cross the UK border. To help secure the border, the UK Border Agency use an electronic system called e-Borders to carry out checks on travellers before they begin their journey. Now it is planned that this system be extended to cover recreational sailors. However, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is protesting at the change, as Louise Nicholls, RYA Communications Manager, writes:
The RYA is disappointed to learn that Government still intends to progress with its original plans to introduce the proposed e-Borders programme into the recreational boating sector in 2014.
Gus Lewis Head of Government Affairs 'It’s disappointing that despite the inherent flaws in the proposed programme, which we have been pointing out to Government regularly over the last three years, it apparently still intends to implement the proposed programme without any attempt to address these flaws.
'The Government has yet to publish a comprehensive explanation of how the e-Borders scheme will in practice be rolled out in the recreational boating sector but we understand that it will be based on a system of self-reporting voyages to and from the UK via a dedicated website up to 24 hours prior to departure.'
The RYA continues to maintain that implementing the e-Borders programme in the recreational boating sector would be an inappropriate, disproportionate, ineffective and inefficient mechanism for securing the sea border.
The RYA has serious concerns that the e-Borders reporting methodology is simply not designed to accommodate the unscheduled activities of the recreational boating sector. In the absence of a carrier ticketing system, a passport ‘control line’ and attendant law enforcement assets, a system that relies on self-reporting by the law abiding majority is unlikely to present any meaningful challenge to those intent on avoiding detection at the border and the rationale for applying e-Borders controls across the geographic sea border is thus flawed.
As such, the extension of the programme as we understand it to the recreational boating sector would, at significant cost to the taxpayer, fail to enhance detection at the border as intended and would not deliver value for money.
In 2009 the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report of its investigation into the e-Borders programme, concluded that 'the e-Borders programme is therefore, as far as we can ascertain, likely to be illegal under the EU Treaty'.
The UK Government subsequently assured the EU Commission that it will not be made compulsory for travellers to provide their personal information and that travellers who have not provided the UK authorities with relevant personal information will not be denied the right to travel, thereby ensuring that the whole scheme does not fall foul of EU rules on the free movement of people within the EU. It remains unclear how the Government’s proposals to implement the e-Borders programme comply with these assurances
'If the e-Borders programme is to be implemented in the recreational boating sector then in our view the most appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective solution would be for only those persons who are not UK or EU citizens and who are on voyages outside the common travel area to be subject to a requirement to provide their details to the UKBA' concludes Gus Lewis.
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