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Over 100 million passengers travel out of the UK each year, through airports, seaports and international rail terminals.

Paper-based exit (embarkation) checks were abolished in 1994 and 1998, but since the early 2000s successive governments have been working towards introducing technology-based checks on persons departing the country, as part of the e-Borders programme. e-Borders was originally scheduled to be fully implemented by March 2014 but has fallen significantly behind schedule.

The Coalition Agreement included a commitment to reintroduce exit checks by the end of this Parliament in 2015. Home Office Ministers and senior officials continue to express their belief that the deadline will be met. The Government has not described its plans for exit checks in detail, but e-Borders is seen as part of the solution.

e-Borders requires transport carriers to collect passengers’ personal information (such as the biographic information held in their passport) and provide this to immigration and law enforcement authorities in advance of travel. Staff in the National Border Targeting Centre use this record of travellers passing through UK ports of entry/exit to conduct security checks on travellers, in order to identify persons of interest to the immigration authorities and police. e-Borders data does not identify the basis on which a person is admitted to the UK, or identify persons whose leave is due to expire.

In addition to using data collected through e-Borders, the Government is proposing giving port and transport provider staff a role in implementing exit checks. The Immigration Bill, which is currently before Parliament, proposes giving third parties powers to collect data and conduct basic checks on persons departing the UK.

This note complements Library Standard Note SN 5771 The e-Borders programme, which contains further information about e-Borders.

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