The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Securicor, which already has a contract to tag criminals, has met Home Office and Immigration Service officials to discuss controversial plans to fit electronic tags to immigrants. It comes as the Government faces increasing criticism over its failure to track asylum-seekers. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, admitted in a BBC interview last week that he had no idea how many illegal asylum seekers were in Britain.
Tagging options include setting up a voluntary programme, and legislation allowing immigration officials to tag asylum-seekers without their consent. Securicor confirmed that discussions had taken place with officials. “It would be for people who have come into this country and are being assessed for asylum,” said an insider. It has emerged that a Home Office official helped develop a similar scheme in the US for tracking immigrants who were about to be deported. The programme was devised by the Vera Institute of Justice in New York. The US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the new Department for Homeland Security, has also piloted an electronic tagging programme for immigrants in Alaska and Florida. A senior Home Office source said the Government had no immediate plans to introduce tagging but “nothing is ruled out”. “It’s the duty of officials to listen to proposals about specific technologies. We never rule anything out but we feel our reporting restrictions work pretty well at the moment,” said the source. Keith Best, head of the Immigration Advisory Service, branded electronic tagging “deeply offensive”. “These people have committed no crime whatsoever,” he said. “Electronic tagging would be unnecessary if the Government introduced policies that didn’t encourage people to stay clandestine. The ridiculous thing is, it’s a crisis of the Government’s own making.”