EUROPE: We have lost control

David Williams asserts that all persons travelling to the UK are checked and thus that the UK controls its border (Northumberland Gazette, March 10), contrary to Anne-Marie Trevelyan's statement in her column of the previous week.

Friday, 25th March 2016, 5:00 am

Every person travelling to the UK is indeed checked by an immigration officer.

In the case of EU citizens, this is only to confirm nationality and identity. For non EU nationals this is a full examination to check the validity of any visa, or to confirm that they are a genuine and legitimate traveller.

Additionally, every person is checked against a database for any adverse history, such as criminal or terrorist.

Unfortunately, EU states have not been very good at sharing relevant information.

Arnis Zalkains, who murdered Alice Gross in Hanwell in August 2014, entered the UK even though he had previously been convicted of murdering his wife in Latvia.

Similarly, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen and leader of the November Paris terrorist attacks, who had previously travelled in and out of the EU via Greece and then freely within the border-free Schengen area, entered the UK undetected in August 2015.

West Midlands police identified 50 video clips and photographs, including Birmingham Bull Ring shopping centre, on his mobile phone.

The fact is that 485 million EU citizens have the absolute right to enter the UK to work, claim benefits, take photographs, or for any other reason.

And that includes the Latvian Mr Zalkains and the Belgian Mr Abaaoud.

David Williams may also be unaware that non-EU family members of an EU citizen also have the right of free movement within the EU, although this does not apply to UK citizens because of the Schengen opt-out.

The UK Government issues a type of visa to these persons called an EEA Family Permit.

However, the European Commission objects to the issue of these permits on the grounds that no visa should be required, and the matter is currently before the European Court of Justice.

So, for example, if Mr Williams and Mr Zalkains were both to marry, say a Libyan citizen, Mr Zalkains would have an absolute right to bring his wife and her family to the UK, whereas Mr Williams, rather bizarrely one might think, would not.

When Anne-Marie Trevelyan says that “we have lost control of who comes into our country”, I am afraid that she is absolutely right.

Richard Spotwood,