Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Counterfeit Travel Documents

Delivered in Plenary 8th November 1999

I would like to support the substance of the German Council initiative to improve on the exchange of counterfeit travel documents. This will strengthen the security of EU borders both for member states, such as my own which are outside of Schengen, as well as the outside EU perimeters.

Recently my country has been subject to an enormous rise in the inward flow of peoples and, in my previous job as a Central London Hospital doctor, I witnessed a significant degree of illegal immigration and fraudulent abuse of our generous asylum policy.  We in the UK are currently receiving over 5,000 new applicants for asylum monthly and over 80% eventually turnout, after investigation, to be bogus.  I personally have come across a Nigerian asylum seeker being granted asylum on the strength of a false Liberian passport, an Albanian family who have passed themselves off as Kosovans, a Nigerian who had loaned his British passport to a cousin, who was able to enter the UK under his identity and then commit a crime, and an Algerian who was living under the identity of a French citizen and who had bought the ID Card on the Parisian black market. These are just some of the many abuses of which I have personal experience, and we know that for the immigration authorities these examples are a daily occurrence.

How can we expect our immigration and police authorities to be able to crack down on this systematic abuse of our system? We have a duty to remember that this constant flow of illegal immigration is posing an enormous burden  - and particularly in the inner cities -  on our National Health Service, Social Services and Social Security system, as well as putting huge pressure on our limited housing stock.  There is also  evidence that large numbers of asylum seekers have been waived through continental Europe with a suggestion they head to our Channel ports in the knowledge that we have a permissive policy in this respect with instant rights to benefits. Given the three year delay till their case is heard they have a good chance of being granted residence even if the asylum application is turned down as a result of  future government amnesties.

The British Conservative Party is formally opposed in principle to the commissionizing under Article 63 of the Treaty of Amsterdam to the 1st Pillar  of policies on; Visa, Immigration and Asylum and I therefore disagree with the Rapporteur’s views on this issue. Nevertheless we welcome intergovernmental co-operation through Council Joint Action and the exchange of information, including that relating to forged travel documents in order to crack down oncrime. There is evidence that organised crime has spotted a soft and lucrative target in the illegal traffic of human beings who are often prepared to spend their life savings to gain entry to wealthy western countries in the hope of making a new life for themselves. 

This initiative is, in my view, a step in the right direction with the use of modern computer image digitalizing technology to aid law enforcement agencies and Interior Ministries to co-operate throughout the Union, and is a good example of the sort of European Union venture my party in the U.K. can support, so long as it is on a flexible intergovernmental basis.