back to article UK e-Borders scheme thrown into confusion by EU rules

Conflicts with EU free movement rules have thrown the UK's £1.2 billion electronic borders program into disarray. The e-borders scheme is designed to collect the personal data of every passenger travelling into and out of Britain. This means, for example, that someone flying from the UK to Spain needs to submit their name, …


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  1. Tony S

    Can't even get a statement right

    "The system has enabled the arrest of murders [sic], rapists and the barring of would-be illegal immigrants."

    Minister: how do you arrest a murder? Or are you referring to the poetic noun for a collection of Crows?

    I would also query just how many MURDERERS and rapists have been arrested. Certainly the number of would-be illegal immigrants arrested is very low compared to the number that actually make into the country (and possibly also compared to the number that end up working in government offices as cleaners!)

  2. Number6


    They'll just pitch it as a method of avoiding delays - if you've handed over your details in advance then you get processed quickly, if you don't, you get to join the long queue for validation of information. Or you get slung in jail because they think you're a bad guy.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    So if I'm in Paris...

    and I need to get back home to my wife in a hurry... I would have had to book a few days in advance.

    Hmmm... now if I WAS in Paris......that sounds like a damn good excuse!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fingers in ears

    phil woolas "la la la la la I cant hear you, its legal even though they have said its not, la la la "

    Yet they still wonder why we have no faith in any politicians or political parties anymore.

    I plan to vote for my arse in the next election, a protest vote for another idiot party is giving the message that i have faith in the system, so abstaining is the way for me!

  5. kevin biswas

    Instead the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will check passengers once they arrive.

    Erm. Isnt that what they do anyway ?

    1. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Fixed it for you.

      They'll just pitch it as a method of avoiding delays - if you've handed over your details in advance then you get to join a long queue as they have lost your details (on a laptop, cd, memory stick or even in a brown folder at Waterloo), if you don't, you get to join the long queue for validation of information. Or you get slung in jail because they think you're a bad guy.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shoulda gone to spec savers

      Sorry mate. You're either wrong or an unaccounted for correction has been added by El Reg (read it again).

      I doubt it's the latter.

    3. Pete 2 Silver badge

      a subtle point

      The borders agency likes to defend the efficiency of it's operation by quoting figures for the number of people it detains or arrests. However, being arrested is no indication of wrong-doing - it usually just means you haven't bowed and scraped sufficiently to our overlords in peaked caps.

      If they were to publicise the number of people who were CONVICTED (i.e. who were proven to be murderers and/or rapists) we would get a truer idea of just how well they were spending our money by repelling undesirables.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've an idea ...

    Instead of spending billions on a system people can just choose to avoid, why not spend a few quid on some "Own up if you are being naughty" signs.

    The results will be the same but we will save a huge wad of cash. It could also be implemented on Monday morning during the coffee break.

  7. Myopic Aardvark

    Good success rate.

    0.0034% of people who have went through the system have been arrested.

    Yeah, that was worth the money.

    1. raving angry loony

      numbers game

      Aardvark: The trick is not to compare the arrest rate to how many people have gone through the system. The trick is to compare the arrest rate to the number of guilty people who have gone through the system.

      Otherwise they could just up the arrest rate to any arbitrary percentage by randomly arresting anyone they want. Assuming of course they aren't already doing that anyway.

  8. Tom Chiverton 1


    Excellent. That's one more over priced, unnecessary, over complex nu-lab database scheme down. Only a few more to go at this rate.

    Will the NIR be next ?

  9. Syd
    Black Helicopters

    In the immortal words of Nelson Muntz...


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Should the statement not read something like;

    "e-Borders is fully compliant with EU law on the basis that people volunteer to hand over the information and if they don't we'll jolly well give them a chinese burn or a finger in the bum"

    Then we'll let them in

    Paris, finger in the bum of course !

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Office Borders Agency

    Isn't it great, if you travel to the UK you have to provide all kinds of paperwork, go through checks, border controls, for non EU citizens, DNA checks, fingerprints, ... the Home Office makes the maximum barrier to entry. Even doing illegal stuff like this.

    Yet USA wants McKinnon extradited, with an inflated damages claims, and they don't even need evidence. "Here you go, Labour are happy to serve their masters." "Is there anything else we can do for you, perhap help you sex up a war dossier or something? We at the Home Office are ready to serve..."

    Come in legally, BORDERS UP.

    Go out on fake charge, BORDERS DOWN.

  12. Whatithink

    Be glad we're in the EU

    If it wasn't for the EU there'd be no limit whatsoever on the authoritarian loons who run this country. We should join Schengen and do without controls altogether.

  13. Captain Mainwaring

    Now I don't like the EU, but..

    I am no great fan of the EU and the Brussel's beurocracy that runs it, but they do seem to be light years ahead of our Home Office when it comes to protecting the privacy of individual citizens ( remember the EU courts ruling on the retention of DNA samples ?)

    Like it or loath it, the Lisbon Treaty is now law and I think this will be the first of many cases where the British government will be told the error of its ways and simply overridden by our new Lords and Masters in Brussels. I do hope that old Scotty McBroon realises that his betrayal on the Lisbon Treaty will turn our beloved Westminster Parliament into a rambling regional council commitee, beholden and answerable to the great star chamber in the Belgian capital.

    I wonder if he has a job waiting for him there, should he fail at the next general election?

    1. JMcL
      Big Brother


      I think we (Ireland) should join now Schengen, as we should have from the start, then let HMG take the responsibiliy of sticking passport controls on every piddling boreen between us and N. Ireland to see what their level of enthusiasm is.

  14. Maty

    just checking ...

    So 4,700 arrests for every 137,000,000 checks? So either air travellers are a remarkably law-abiding bunch, or there's ways to get round the system. Either way, it looks like another example of the govt wasting money it does not have.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Article completely wrong...

    Having worked on the bid for this in the past, I can tell you that this article is abdolutely wrong, while I hace pretty much zero respect for the consortium that is delivering this system, what I canntell you is that the hard part of the system is that the only time you can check a persons identity documents in the EU is at the check in desk and that the system and it's precursor (Semaphore - pilot system) do just that, it means you can buy a ticket at the airport, eurostar or ferry terminal on the day of travel and you only need to prove your ID when you commence travel.

    What this means from a requirements perspective is that e-Borders has to get a go/no go decision about an individuals right to travel to the UK while they are stood at the desk, the system has less than 5 seconds to communicate this decision back to the airline check in desk. The system stops working and queues result.

    When e-Borders makes a decision about a passenger, the system checks the passengers identity against a number of watchlists, some watchlists imply instructions on sctions to take, there are 4 types of action:

    1. Deny Access to UK

    2. Apprehend on arrival to UK

    3. Arrange surveilance of traveller on arrival in UK

    4. Pass unimpeded

    e-Borders has to arrange for the relevant authority to carry out actions 2&3 while the passenger is in transit so that the action can take place on arrival in the UK.

    The Americans attempt to do similar things with their US-Visit system except they dont have the requirement to check documents at the desk, instead they request passport numbers 24 hours in advance of travel so they can deny travel, detain or set up surveilance, this is why Britain couldn't just take the US system, which was also designed by Raytheon.

  16. Nomen Publicus

    4,700 arrests

    You only crow about the number of arrests when the number of successful prosecutions is negligible.

    1. The Original Steve


      How long does a database query take? How long does it take to arrange 2 coppers to turn up at the arrival gate when the plane arrives?

      And seriously, trying to say it's an alright way of doing it because the US are doing it isn't exactly the best argument in the world... Personally I don't fly to the US because of their foreign policy and the assumption I'm a terrorist before I even drive to the airport in the UK.

      " that the only time you can check a persons identity documents in the EU is at the check in desk "

      Fine. I'm not necessarily catching the flight until I'm at the bloody airport. If it takes so bloody long to verify someone's ID through a passport then that's not my problem.

      " it means you can buy a ticket at the airport, eurostar or ferry terminal on the day of travel and you only need to prove your ID when you commence travel"

      Good. You check my ID when my ID needs checking. Not before. The bank checks my credit history when I apply for a loan, not "just in case" at random times of the year.

      They want to catch people at the airport then that's fine. But don't dick around law abiding citizens who are also part of the EU. I'd be pretty pissed should I have to do anything more than whip out my EU passport when passing between EU countries - and so should everyone else in the member states flying into the UK.

      How about we do some propper police work for a change rather than this obsession that the database is some holy grail that will magically fix all crime should we pump enough unstructured, uncleansed and unverified data into it.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Not sure you should be proud of that system you worked so hard on then

      So build a better system, you minion of big brother. That's what the e- in e-borders is supposed to mean. Except it takes more time and is therefore a WORSE system.

  17. Graham Marsden

    But, but, but...

    ... we're doing this because the EU *says* we have to do this...!

    Well, that was what the Home Office were claiming, despite the EU not saying anything of the sort.

    Glad to see the chickens coming home to roost at last, it's just a pity they pi$$ed away so much of our money first.

  18. CM


    This situation is confusing: Spain collects API so why can they continue to do so? Freedom of travel in the EU is disrupted by the UKBA and Spain, 1 gets clouted (rightly so). Isn't it time to push Schengen further to the refuseniks.

  19. Richard North

    @ Captain Mainwaring

    "I wonder if he has a job waiting for him there, should he fail at the next general election?"

    You're as cynical as me.

    And, sadly, we're probably both right to be cynical - he'll have made sure he's got a cushy job lined up somewhere unaccountable and lucrative at our expense, just like Teflon Tony...

  20. CN Hill

    Complete waste of time and money

    This year I travelled from the UK through French, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark and Sweden. I showed my passport three times: going out the UK, once to a Polish Border Guard, and coming back into the UK.

    Gosh, all these murderers and rapists arrested. Obviously there are no rapes or murders in French, Belgium etc etc - or perhaps they just think the whole eborders idea is *** useless. Unlike Mr Woolas.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    It would have a use.

    It would help the governemtn count *how* many people leave the country. In *principle* it would allow HMG to track who has gone out, avoiding the "we don't know how many people have over stayed their visa" answers given by civil servants to parlimentary committees.

    Keeps the Daily Heil fraternity happy and looks like they are doing *something*

    With this government that would be c£158 000 pa well spent.

    Thumbs down because it is not in my opinion.

  22. Vincent Ballard

    What about Spain?

    Spain has been doing this for years (so the statement that "someone flying from the UK to Spain needs to submit their name, date of birth and passport details ahead of a flight and well before they got to the airport, or face the risk of being prevented from boarding" is already true). Does that mean it will now be forced to stop?

  23. Dave 129

    @Number 6

    All well and good, except the EU response says that there is no obligation to provide it or that airlines should collect it or that it indeed HAS to be provided at all. So if they were to use your suggestion as a "get through faster" type thing, they would be breaking EU law.

    "Passengers must be informed in advance that handing over the information is neither compulsory nor ... a condition of purchase and sale of the ticket"


    "Passengers who are EU citizens or their family members will not be refused entry/exit or incur sanctions in any way on the basis that their passenger data is unavailable to the UK authorities for whatever reason"

    So it's a completely pointless programme on all accounts for anyone that's a European. Of course anyone else it would apply to; at least in theory.

  24. Martin 6 Silver badge

    Simple solution

    The airlines will simply insist on collecting this data as a condition of travel - its purely a commercial requirement so no legislation and no problem with the eu.

    The airlines will then simply hand over the data to the government, either secretly to avoid any data protection act or the data will be collected by the airline's data collection subsidiary headquartered in Mongolia so it doesn't apply.

  25. Alpha Tony


    C'mon El Reg. I emailed you about this in MAY, when I was required to register my details in advance before I was allowed to fly to Spain! I stated that this seemed to be in contravention of my right to freedom of movement within Europe. (Email was entitled 'War on Tourism' if you want to check your archive). You never even bothered to reply.

    I even made the connection that it was not at the request of Spain (as other EU nationals were not required to do this), but likely at the request of our database-building idiots-in-chief!

    *wanders off muttering to self about how no-one ever listens*

  26. John Savard Silver badge


    I would have thought this scheme would still be useful if it applied to people flying to the UK from outside the European Union. Now, all we need is for every other country in the EU to adopt a similar scheme for people flying to their countries from outside the European Union, and the EU will be safer from terrorists.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    FAIL designed right into the system

    The "e-" in "e-borders" suggest electronics, teh intarwebz, and wonderful goodness for all. Right? Right. Only if that was the case, it would not burden the traveler with bureaucratic red tape and requiring all travel to be planned days in advance. No more hopping on a plane on a lark. In a hurry? Rebooking to an aeroplane because the chunnel is full of stuck trains AND the border collies at calais are striking? Please wait an unspecified number of days while we put far too much of your personal data into this here e-borders system. Watch us fumble, the new specator sport.

    The idea of wonderful e-goodness for all should mean less hassle, not more. Why is the government mindlessly aping xenophobia central anyway? Carry on government.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    A long time ago in a land downunder...

    1995 it was when ETAS was set up - the Electronic Travel Authorization System - linked to all the major ticketing systems in the world.

    When a ticket was booked (dest Down-under) the ETAS system (available only to citizens of the 38 or so *trusted* countries) ran it's checks and had three responses before a ticket was sold.

    1. Granted

    2. Granted (greet on arrival)

    3. Refer to Embassy

    7 years later in 2002/3 APIS was added to ETAS - a second check - run AFTER the departure of the plane (dest Down-under) linked to airline departure control systems (by law). So then they know you are *really* on the plane and have time to prepare.

    Yes - EVERY citizen in the world outside Aust requires a visa - just sometimes you didn't even know you applied for one.

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