HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 c110W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are being taken at the UK end to reduce the use by illegal immigrants of the channel tunnel to enter the UK. [60241]

Beverley Hughes

The Immigration Service deploys a range of new detection technology to combat clandestine entry through the channel tunnel and other routes. Carbon dioxide and heartbeat detectors are in operation in Dover and Coquelles and two x-ray scanners deployed there by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise for the purpose of detecting contraband have regularly found clandestine entrants during their searches. These two scanners are shortly to be supplemented by two gamma ray detectors purchased by the Immigration Service and all four scanners will be manned by joint Customs/Immigration Service teams.

In addition, the Immigration Service is about to begin the next phase of its procurement programme and is looking to deploy additional detection devices in the United Kingdom and some continental ports. Searches are already conducted in some of those ports by ferry and port operators and the Immigration service is currently considering how best to assist them in their efforts, possibly by lending additional detection equipment.

The recent resurgence of clandestine entry via the SNCF rail freight site at Frethun requires additional security measures to be taken to secure the site. Following discussions, SNCF have undertaken to introduce measures to improve security as a matter of urgency.

In the forthcoming Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill the Government are seeking to amend the Civil Penalty provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to bring about a more flexible, but enforceable penalty regime. The object of the Civil Penalty is to persuade those responsible for vehicles and other transport to secure and check them properly to prevent the carriage of clandestine entrants. The Civil Penalty provisions apply equally to rail freight and freight shuttle wagons operating through the tunnel and since its introduction in clandestine entry on the Eurotunnel freight shuttle service has reduced dramatically.