More about border controls

EU policies

The EU has a variety of policies and actions in place designed to improve economic conditions in some of those countries whose citizens are desperate to reach a safe haven and a job in Europe. They have also strengthened border controls in third party countries where migrants seek to cross undetected.

The Schengen Area is the territory within the EU where the free movement of persons is guaranteed and internal border controls have been abolished. UK and Ireland participate in some aspects of the arrangements but have not abolished passport controls at the internal borders.
See Schengen Area.


In 2005 the EU created an agency, based in Warsaw, Frontex (from the French, Frontieres Exterieures), to coordinate the management of EU's exernal borders.  Each member state controls its own borders. Frontex monitors to ensure a common high standard of control. To help with this the agency developed a training regime for member state border guards.

The role of border guards is to stop illegal immigration. They also stop smuggling of goods and people who may be the victims of human trafficking. The smuggling of cigarettes from the Ukraine into Poland is one of the agency's priorities. 


Frontex is looking to expand its surveillance operations beyond the EU to spot potential migrants before they reach a member state border. This may involve the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites. Eurosur, the EU's pan European surveillance system, went live in December 2013.

The Frontex website contains a useful short video on the work of Frontex, including rescue at sea. See also, accessible from the home page, video, 'Fair play at the borders' about the 2012 European Cup in Poland. 

EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)

March 2013. FRA publishes a report on fundamental rights at  EU southern sea borders. Report covers border surveillance in Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Cyprus including challenges to fundamental right related to EU funding and Frontex. Pushbacks not allowed at sea and asylum applications must be referred to competent authoritities.  For further details including joint operations outside EU waters visit full report.

UK border controls

The Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Act came into force in late 2009. Under the Act the automatic right to stay in the UK after five years residence was abolished.
Accepted migrants must demonstrate a good ability in English and knowledge of life in Britain. Full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents.
See UK Border Agency

Points system

A five tier points system was introduced under the 2009 Act:

1.  Highly skilled eg scientists, entrepreneurs
2.  Skilled with job offer eg teacher, nurse
3.  Low skilled filling specific temporary shortages
4.  Students
5.  Youth mobility and temporary workers, e.g. musicians coming to play in a concert

Tiers 3 and 5 are temporary: migrants can switch out of them once in the UK. Tiers 1, 2 and 4 - migrants can switch between tiers if they meet the requirements. Tiers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are in operation. Tier 3 is suspended. 

In respect of Tier 2, in March 2011, a number of occupations were removed from the list of specialist and shortage jobs.  And in April 2011, a limit was set to this Tier of 20,700 for non EU migrants plus 1000 extra visas for people of ‘exceptional talent.’
See Quick Guide to points based system.

UK Border Agency to be dissolved

The UK government announced on March 26, 2013 that the UKBA was to be dissolved and replaced by two separate units, an immigration and visa service and an immigration and law enforcement department. Meanwhile there is a backlog of more than 320,000 applications waiting to be processed. 

ID cards

Biometric residence permits, formerly known as ID cards, were introduced in November 2008. Since then 650,000 have been issued. From February 2012 these permits will additionally be issued for stays of over six months.

Other control measures:

Migration Impact Fund - a £50 levy on students and economic migrants from outside the EU.
Jobs must be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices before being offered to workers from outside Europe, to give UK based workers a better chance of employment.
Procedures tightened to check bogus colleges that have allowed illegal immigrants into the country.
The idea of "earned citizenship" dropped in 2010.
A high tech system for counting people in and out of the country: e-Borders.

Recent measures

The UK government is stepping up reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to meet its election manifesto commitment to reduce net migration from the ‘hundreds of thousands’ to the ‘tens of thousands’.

Recent measures announced:

12 February 2012. New rules from 6 April 2012 to cut abuse of the student visa route and limit those students who can stay on to work to university graduates earning £20,000.
13 February 2012. Changes to Tier 1 categories
29 February 2012. Automatic right to settlement for skilled workers under Tier 2 removed. This will now be linked to a minimum wage threshold of £35,000. There will be some exceptions for scientist and shortage occupation jobs.

How other countries control borders


Character tests must be taken, criminal records and health records checked. A points system is in place for work permits; you can only receive a work permit after scoring a certain number of points according to skills you possess.

Australia has two immigration schemes, one for economic migrants and one for a humanitarian protection programme for refugees and displaced persons.

In 2013/ 2014 numbers under the first scheme were capped at190,000 including dependants of skilled workers.  20,000 were welcomed under the second scheme.

The points system was updated in 2011.

The top five countries for immigration to Australia are: India, China, UK, Philippines, Pakistan.