Brexit won’t protect UK from Vote Leave’s EU criminals

by Luke Lythgoe | 29.03.2016

Vote Leave say: “EU membership means we have lost control of our borders and have been unable to prevent dangerous individuals from walking into the UK.” To back up their argument, they’ve published a dossier detailing “50 of the EU’s most dangerous criminals who came to the UK”.

But, unlike EU members in the Schengen Area, the UK does have full control of its borders. Officials carry out security-related checks on anyone, including EU nationals, entering the UK. There is, however, an issue with information about EU nationals’ criminal convictions not being readily accessible to UK border officials as they check travellers’ passports.

Under EU law (Art. 27), the UK has the right to refuse admission to any EU citizen on the grounds of “public policy, public health or public security”. Proportionality applies, which means previous criminal convictions do not in themselves constitute grounds for refusal. However, those who “commit serious or persistent crimes” and are seen as a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat” can be refused entry to the UK.

The number of EU nationals refused entry to the UK is not made routinely public, but a Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2009 alone 480 EU citizens were denied entry to the UK.

After leaving the EU, the only significant way to make UK border security tighter than it is now would be to introduce pre-travel controls, such as visas, for travellers from other EU countries. But disruptions to business travel and tourism would make this option highly unappealing.

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    Brexit wouldn’t give Britain any additional control over its borders, but it could potentially jeopardise the UK’s continued membership of data-sharing programmes. ECRIS, for example, is a database set up in 2012 to exchange criminal records information between member states, intended for use at the request of judges and prosecutors. It is currently being enhanced for further integration, and to include information on non-EU citizens.

    The Schengen Information System is a sophisticated alerts system for wanted and missing persons.The system doesn’t guarantee recently released murderers get stopped at the border, but it does increase protection against fugitives.

    The priority in Brussels, particularly in the wake of recent terrorist atrocities, is to bolster these and other EU-wide information systems. A post-Brexit Britain would likely still be involved in security cooperation but, as InFacts has previously written, Brexit would remove the UK’s leadership role in setting a European security strategy.

    Vote Leave’s parade of criminals begins with 14-year-old Alice Gross’ Latvian murderer Arnis Zalkalns and continues through a series of murderers, rapists and terrorists. The In campaign have dubbed this “scaremongering” and hypocrisy from a group constantly accusing the Remain side of conducting Project Fear.

    Proportionally, EU nationals in the UK have roughly the same criminality rate as British natives. According to 2015 prison population statistics there were 3,950 EU nationals in jail in England and Wales, or roughly 5% of the prison population. That was equal to the number of EU nationals as a proportion of the total population of England and Wales.

    InFacts contacted Vote Leave with these arguments but received no reply.

    This article was updated on 30 March to clarify points about information accessible to border officials during passport checks.

    Edited by Geert Linnebank

    One Response to “Brexit won’t protect UK from Vote Leave’s EU criminals”

    • Thanks very much for putting things in straight perspective.

      So it means that the UK deliberately let people in at its borders it duly controls.

      Furthermore, Vote Leave forgets that the worst 1990s islamist extremists were UK residents & Nationals (the Finsbury Mosque gang) whom the UK deliberately refused to extradite to countries where they perpetuated acts of terrorisms like the 1995’s Paris bombings.