Police check scheme for residents from 44 countries secretly ditched

Police checks on Russian and Chinese nationals are AXED: Monitoring scheme for residents from 44 countries gets secretly ditched because it is ‘no longer effective’ as Home Office already has the data

  • The Police Registration Scheme was abruptly halted at the end of last week 
  • The scheme provides strict police checks on foreign nationals living in Britain
  • This includes thousands of people from 44 countries including Russia and China
  • An immigration expert said there had been ‘no thought for public safety’ after it was halted overnight

Strict police checks on foreign nationals living in Britain have been secretly abandoned.

Tens of thousands of people from 44 countries – including Russia and China – no longer have to give details to the police when they move to this country.

They include those from Middle Eastern states such as Iraq, Iran and Syria which host terror cells actively boasting a hostile agenda to Britain.

The checks, known as the Police Registration Scheme, were abruptly halted at the end of last week with no public announcement from the Home Office, Border Force or immigration authorities.

As recently as 2016, a Home Office minister insisted the scheme was necessary ‘in order to maintain security’.

Police forces have started telling foreign nationals the scheme has been ‘suspended with immediate effect’, and all registration appointments have been cancelled.

Tens of thousands of people from 44 countries – including Russia and China – no longer have to give details to the police when they move to this country

An immigration expert advising the Home Office said: ‘It is a shock. It happened overnight. The information collected from these people is an important intelligence asset. 

There has been no thought for public safety. It is lunacy right now when we are in the middle of disagreements with Russia and China, each who send their people to study or work in this country.’

But a Home Office spokesman said last night: ‘These anonymous claims are wrong and misguided.

‘This scheme dates back to the First World War and is no longer effective because data provided to the police is already collected by the Home Office when individuals apply to enter the UK.

‘The police agree with government and recommended that the scheme should be abolished so that officers can focus on policing and solving crimes. 

‘It is not used by the police to monitor individuals and to claim otherwise is wrong.’

44 countries in the scheme 

Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Macao, Moldova, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Palestinian territories, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen. 

Registration of long-stay students, workers and visitors with police forces has been routine for decades. It was introduced in 1909 amid concerns about German espionage.

The criteria used by the Home Office to decide which nationalities were required to register with police have never been published. 

But they are thought to be countries whose nationals pose a higher risk of terrorism or other crime, or who present a higher risk of committing immigration offences, such as overstaying a visa.

The scheme covered foreign nationals aged over 16 who had been granted permission to live in this country for more than six months.

They were required to attend a police station in person, and pay a £34 fee, to have their documents verified. 

They had to keep police informed about any changes to their address, name or visa, and if they moved jobs. 

Rules on who was required to register were set out in the Home Office’s Immigration Rules, which run to 1,500 pages and have been criticised for their complexity.

Yesterday at a Met Police building in south London, which was used for all registrations by eligible foreign nationals in the capital, a sign on the door read: ‘Police Registration Scheme has been abolished.’

South Yorkshire Police confirmed on Friday that the scheme had been repealed.

A statement on its website said: ‘The general requirement under the Immigration Rules for certain foreign nationals to register with the police has ceased. From the time of receiving this notice, you are no longer required to register with the police.’

A similar announcement appeared on Nottingham University’s website. 

In 2016, Lord Keen, then a Home Office spokesman in the Lords, described to peers how the Police Registration Scheme allowed details of foreign nationals to be formally logged, and added: ‘This information is then on record for the police and other law enforcement to access, as necessary, in order to maintain security.’

Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: ‘This raises public safety and security issues and the Home Office should think again.

‘To scrap such checks on Russian and Chinese nationals, in particular, is ludicrous given everything that is going on. It is simply wrong and simply dangerous. 

‘This is yet another indication of a lack of political will to maintain proper controls over immigration.’

The Home Office granted 166,646 visas to Chinese nationals last year, 30,736 to Russians, 8,897 to Afghans, 8,339 to Iranians, 5,929 to Iraqis, 4,098 to Syrians and 1,521 to Libyans.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said: ‘The council agreed with the assessment that the scheme no longer provided any public protection benefit to the police and supported the move to modernise reporting requirements of foreign nationals.

‘Information which is required by policing to conduct enforcement activity continues to be available against those that are subject to visa conditions.’

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