Friday, June 22, 2007

Britain offers to share files on Islamic Pakistani immigrants with the United States

Philip Johnston:

Britain is ready to exchange information about immigrants and failed asylum seekers with the United States in an attempt to tighten transatlantic security, John Reid said yesterday.

On a visit to New York, the Home Secretary called for shared access to files on immigration offenders and other "travellers of interest".

It would be the first time the British authorities have shared such information outside the European Union.

Mr Reid, who will put the plan to Michael Chertoff, the US homeland security chief, in Washington this week, said: "The only way to tackle these issues is through countries working together.

''Every issue we face, whether it involves immigration, identity or counter-terrorism, has international relationships at its very core.

"We cannot protect Britain's borders by operating in a bubble.''

The offer will be seen as a bid to forestall US attempts to impose travel restrictions on 800,000 British citizens of Pakistani origin.

Mr Chertoff is reported to have told the Government that British Pakistanis should apply for a visa before travelling to the United States. However, British officials said they would resist the plan, which was denounced as discriminatory.

Mr Reid's idea appears to be a compromise which may satisfy the US authorities that enough information is being made available. A spokesman for the Home Office said: "The issues that we face on immigration are very similar.

"We should work together to tackle them, and one of the ways to do that would be exchanging immigration data. It would also fit in with things like tackling terrorism, organised crime and trafficking."

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