STEAM Packet bosses have raised concerns about the possible expansion of the UK's e-Borders programme to cover travellers to and from the Isle of Man.
Critics of the proposals fear Manx residents and visitors to the Island will be forced to carry passports and they are concerned about the civil liberties implications of collecting and storing passengers' personal data.
A standing committee of Tynwald on constitutional matters is due to report back in the spring following its investigation into proposed changes to the Immigration Act 1971 that, it has been claimed, could have resulted in travellers from the Isle of Man losing the right to enter the UK without a passport.
Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward provided a written submission to the committee outlining the ferry operator's stance on e-Borders and changes to the passport requirements.
He has warned that if passengers are eventually obliged to carry passports this would hit the Manx tourist industry.
And he claims that collecting data from car passengers or coach parties would be impractical and it would mean a large increase in check-in times.
The 1.2bn e-Borders programmes aims to combat terrorism and illegal immigration by improving the security of border controls using electronic technology to collect and analyse the personal information of everyone travelling to or from the UK.
The Manx Government had agreed in principle to the Island being involved in the e-Borders programme and Chief Minister Tony Brown said he was satisfied that Manx passengers would not have to carry passports when travelling to the UK – although border checks would be carried out between the Island and the Republic of Ireland.
In a statement, the Steam Packet said that about 20 per cent of visitors to the Isle of Man do not possess a passport.
The statement said: 'Any requirement to force people to have a passport may be to the detriment of the Island's tourist market as potential visitors may choose to go elsewhere.'
The statement continues: 'It would be impractical for Sea Terminal staff to identify all individuals within a car or coach. The only way to do this would be to ask the occupants to leave the vehicle, which would impact on passenger service and increase check-in and ship turn-around times.
'This may lead some parties to choose to go elsewhere, again to the detriment of the Island's visitor market.
'It would be highly impractical to collect e-Border data at the time of check-in for a sailing with up to 800 passengers, unless check-in times are increased considerably.
'Data collection would therefore need to be carried out at time of booking or prior to travel. While this may become accepted practice in time, it creates an additional administrative burden for those organising group parties who may think twice about coming to the Isle of Man.'
Steam Packet said it had not yet been advised which data would be required and so could not begin any relevant IT work, although the ferry operator had been assured that sufficient time would be allowed to bring in suitable systems.
Its statement adds: 'We understand that the e-Border data collection requirement will only apply on the Douglas/Dublin route.
'UK Border Agency staff have advised us that there is no legal requirement for individuals to carry a passport on the IoM/Dublin route.
'We understand that it will be a legal requirement for the passenger to supply the data suggested but if the passenger refuses to supply the data requested they are still legally entitled to travel.'
Proposed reforms for travel between the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the UK were removed from the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill in July 2009 but the UK Border Agency has previously said it remains committed to bringing them in at some point in the future.
It has indicated that fixed or routine immigration controls would not be introduced but intelligence-led operations would be increased.
But there are indications that e-Borders may not now apply to travel between the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland either.
This realisation follows a growing recognition that collection of data on the border between Eire and Northern Ireland could easily be circumvented.
And in another move the whole programme could be thrown into disarray after it emerged that mandatory controls could conflict with EU rules on free movement.
Senior European Commission official Jonathan Faull made it clear that EU citizens could not be stopped from coming into the UK if they refused to hand over personal details.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Have I read this right? We can refuse to show our passports and still travel anyway? I'm a bit confused by the way this statement was laid out, "it is a legal requirement to supply this requested information, however if the passenger refuses to supply this information, they are legally allowed to travel"
The Steam Packet scaremongering again. And no offence to the staff, but if check-in times were extended and the departures staggered, or perhaps even if there were more staff to deal with the numbers of people of travelling, then the Steam Packet and the Sea Terminal would cope fine. I remember once going over in the summer and the foot passenger queue was out of the main terminals doors, due to the Steam packet having two sailings (Belfast and Liverpool) going off relatively at pretty much the same time, good planning that. If we are part of the UK/Great Britain then we will not need to carry a passport in order to travel over to the mainland or Northern Ireland and back again with no need for immigration controls/passports checks. It of the scheme then it should only affect the routes to the Republic of Ireland, that's fair enough. The UK Border Agency has also stated that the e-borders programmes will cost 1.2bn – hopefully this will include the costs of them implementing the programme on the island, or is this something, we the taxpayer will have to pick up.
One suspects that this is yet another example of muddled thinking by the UK Government and its Public Servants. Their decision not to conform to the Schengen Agreement places added burdens on their citizens without commensurate benefits. The situation in relation to the Republic of Ireland is particularly silly. The Government of Ireland Act currently allows free passage of Irish and UK citizens between both legislatures. The UK Government as part of the settlement in Northern Ireland have indicated that checks of people passing between the Republic and the North would only be 'random' under this new proposal and not carried out at any 'border crossing'. So technically a citizen of the Republic of Ireland travelling to the Isle of Man via Belfast will not have to present a passport or other EU identity document here as they have already crossed the UK e-Border and been accepted into the UK. But if they come from Dublin the IOM would certainly be the 'border' and would have to decide whether to adopt the same random sampling policy as the UK Government proposes to apply on the Irish/Northern Irish border. Establishing an e-Border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would recognise that Northern Ireland is not part of the UK! Incidentally, IOM citizens travelling to the Republic of Ireland would also need to carry documentation to prove on their return that they are not Irish. When this policy was mooted by the UK (I think in 2008?) it justified it on the basis that it was to protect the UK from 'criminals and terrorists' which is patently utter nonsense. If there is a real and present threat from criminals and terrorists no competent government would then wait five years to deal with the issue. So there must be another reason which seems to be to enforce the border between the UK and Ireland - why not just join Schengen?
I could see the passport control being attractive to HMRC, as then it would be very easy to see when the tax exiles on the Isle of Man visit the UK. This would help them demonstrate that such persons of interest had not so completely severed all links with the UK as they might have claimed to when declaring themselves not liable for UK tax. Also, might it help identify those people who needed to be billed for using non A&E services should they turn up in a UK NHS hospital? I am against such an internal border control, as I fear it would indicate a future where at some stage anyone on the Isle of Man after a certain date would have no right to travel or work in the UK. The UK would then deliver an ultimatum, "Join the UK and use Sterling as your currency or stay prisoners on your Isle of Man, and while you are at it, don't expect a Manx Pound to exchange with a Sterling Pound at a ratio of 1 to 1."
Yes there should be passport control. this is essential to travel by air and has not stopped people from traveling. Perhaps with passport control in place with the ferries it will discourage people coming to the island carrying illegal drugs etc. It will help to possibly make the police force more aware of who is entering and cut crime which is now getting desperate on this Island. Allow the passport control or this Island or visitors will eventually stop anyway due to the increased crime rates.
ANONYMOUS BUT CONCERNED PERSON
It is fine for readers to say that the use of passports will stop the import of drugs, but do you seriously feel that with the ever increasing costs of UK passports that senior citizens who visit the Island and do not travel abroad will be willing to face such a cost, I seriously doubt it. This is just another UK policy with no thought even for it's own citizens and voters.
Crime is actually going down on the Island, trouble is that if enough people say its bad others will start to believe it. The Isle of Man is a safe place to live and getting safer. However I do agree in a time of international terrorism and with no accurate record of who is coming to the Island it is vital to ensure we know to is coming to and from the Island. To say that it's too hard or would slow the process down would sound ridiculous if it was said at an enquiry into why terrorists travelled through the Island to wherever. It would also help keep known offenders out of the Island.
JJ – yes crime maybe decreasing on the island, but certain types of crime are on the increase – such as drug related crime, and mainly possession with intent to supply. Seeing as the UK Gov't is going to start charging manx citizens for non-A&E medical support, maybe we should start charging them for looking after all the non-manx criminals currently residing at Jurby Hotel, sorry HMP Jurby, at the cost of the manx taxpayer. Fairs fair I feel.
How would passport control stop drugs being smuggled on the Steam Packet? Do passport controls stop people smuggling drugs when flying? Passport controls are to allow a government to try and stop people from "outside" getting "inside" because the powers that be, consider them under suspicion and undesirable. Is it the Isle of Man Government that is wanting these controls or the UK Government?
Never mind tourism - Is it just me or given how the UK is with us at the minute - is this not just the start of how they will keep tabs on Manx residents - requiring them to pay UK tax if they travel more than the allotted days off the Island???????? - dont know just a thought
PM The Island's currency is Sterling! Do you see the Manx Pound traded on the markets? The Island's natural money is Bank of England but they charge face value ie ten pounds for a ten pound note so the Island via IOM Bank makes its own but has to keep the equivalent value in London in UK Govt securities at interest. The more you use IOM notes the more interest the Island gets! Holding UK Govt securities gives the Island's mickey mouse money some value. This is also the reason why UK banks will change the notes for Bank of England notes. By the way, you cannot pay directly to a Manx bank account from the UK using paying in slips.I have tried. They refuse although you can use Manx bank slips but they go off in the post (The Island is not part of the clearing system). The Island cannot be forced into the UK. It can be ground down so as to be a peripheral EU region linked to N. Ireland tho' and this is the plan. They are quite open about it. Before that event the Island must lose its tax advantages which is the long-term poltical reason for the VAT clawback, NHS withdrawal and the latest Manx budget. It is just a matter of time! By the way check out "Eurisles" which has its HQ in Rennes, Normandy!!!!
What utter nonsense longer checking in times! I can assure you as a regular car traveller over the last ten years or so (2 or 3 times a year) exploring mainland Europe from the Island – Most of our journey's have involved after driving through the UK departing either through the ports of Dover/Calais or at the Eurotunnel Folkestone/Coquelles/Calais Rail Terminals…………latest check in times normally around 45 minutes before departure (including travel with our dogs under the PET travel documentation scheme etc) I have recently noted that UK Immigration/Customs (Border Agency) along with a Kent Police presence are now increasingly based in Calais; along with there counterparts Gendarmerie Nationale/Douans are also now based with a similar presence in Dover/Folkestone……..and the throughput/security/organization it is really efficient/prompt provided you have the correct legal documentation etc…..What a shambles Douglas/Heysham & Liverpool organization and facilities are in comparison ….Regardless of what is also probably looming on the horizon why don't IOMSP go and check it out!.....before e-passport control is also enforced on travel to and from the IOM…….or what about the IOM applying independently from the UK to join the Schengen Agreement……perhaps for now I better leave that subject for a future date!
I have often thought the IOMSP were not of the real world and this bleat from them proves it. It is utter and contrite rubbish to suggest that the alledged proposed need for Passports "will delay check in and boarding procedures"! As JBC says , these controls are aready in place at other Ferry Crossings, Newcastle, Hull and the Channel Ports. I use them regularly as do many others and the procedure could not be simpler. Roll up with your car to the Booth. Present Shipping Docs and Passport, get a sticker for windscreen and join the corect row for the boat. The same on the return. So why can't the Packet do this? They already have the Booth where you check in at Douglas and Heysham. Simple? It's called incompetence and or inertia. Get off your backside Mark and get real. We already go through the utter farce of a "Security Check" and then get a 'Boarding Pass' with our pre-printed names on it. We drive 12 feet and then hand the bloody thing back to some guy collecting em up. The logic of that has escaped me since inception but if it can be done then just add in a Passport or other ID for Pete's sake. And "No" I do NOT want the British Isles (evocative name for the Archipeligo as is The Irish Sea!) to join the seive known as Schengen. I want MY Borders as secure as can be for both those trying to get out and for those trying to get in. Get's coat!
The Steam Packet are beyond belief. Do people refuse to travel abroad because they have to show their passports at International Borders? The Company by the complicity of the Isle of Man Government have a protected monopoly as the Island's only maritme passenger carrier (apart from the odd Balmoral sailing in the summer). How long will it take for their negative "spinning" to have a go at Mezeron's freight business in Ramsey or Easy Jet's forthcoming Liverpool schedule? Also, could the Steam Packet also warn all foot passengers travelling to Liverpool this summer to add on an extra 20 minutes to their schedule because they have to use the vehicle deck to alight and the vehicles get priority. Come to think of it, why don't they sail to Ardrossan anymore?
SCOTT LAND, frequent Steam Packet traveller
There seems to be confusion in some commenters' minds as to what is going on. Firstly: the UK is part of the European Union, and also part of the Schengen Accord. It has chosen not fully to implement Schengen, but there is nothing to stop a majority vote of the other EU countries (following Lisbon they can do this) telling the UK that Schengen applies in full from a certain date (i.e. no border controls). This is not negotiable, no matter how much you dislike it. At present it is almost as if the State of Kansas wanted to see the passports of people driving in from Iowa. The UKBA's demand for advance passenger information (passport details etc,) from people travelling from one EU country to another are illegal under EU law. So all the nonsensical passport checking and prenotification of perosnla detials when we move about the UK or to and from the continent will have to go. Those who worried about this should consider the following: The UK signed up to be a full member of the EU years ago; Those countries with open borders do not have major problems with smuggling, illegal immigrants or anything else (they do have lower costs by not having to run complicated border management systems); other EU governments are not control freaks, and have gone to some lengths to ensure free movement of goods, people and services. It shoud also be noted that the Eu is creating standards for collecting information about travel out of and into the EU. The UK will have to toe the line here too.