UK Border officials find a hundred fake test Coronavirus certificate a day, a UK Border official has said. But many slip through the net because they are unable to check them. This is especially the case when they are written in a foreign language.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Immigration Services Union (ISU), said travellers’ documents written in anything other than English often simply had to be “taken on trust”.
Officers spotted around 100 fake certificates a day, but that there was no way of knowing how many more evaded detection. Moreton gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus.
Moreton said officials were unable to prove a negative test and so took the test certificate at face value. The 100 or so fakes a day that they do spot are largely because there is an obvious spelling error in the English ones. They have to be in one of four languages – so if it’s in English and there’s a spelling error, you have an outside chance of spotting it.”
Many more fakes may be slipping through the net that the authorities don’t know about.
“If you happen to speak one of the other specified languages and you can spot a spelling error, then you might see that as well. Otherwise they’re taken on face value – do you have that piece of paper or email or something on your phone that broadly suggests you might have taken a test?
“There are a series of code numbers which defines exactly what type of test that is, and the border force has a list that they can check it against, but these things are very easy to knock up electronically, unfortunately.”
She said that a lot of the border, immigration, migration, and quarantine controls were based on trust. The authorities trusted people when they said that they had not been in a red list country in the previous 10 days. “The whole thing is all based on an assumption that people will do the right thing. But I’m not sure that the behavioural studies indicate that they do.”
She explained the process for checking incoming people consisted of firstly the usual immigration check, and secondly, all the various COVID paperwork checks. “Do they have the 72 hour pre-departure COVID test? Have they completed the passenger locator form correctly and in full?
“Have they booked the two tests they are required to – day two and day eight? If they are staying at a hotel, or supposed to be, have they booked that? “So that’s quite a lot of separate pieces of paper that are not combined, so a lot of separate tests.”
The need for border checks has been heightened recently, due to increasing numbers of new coronavirus variants, such as the ones first identified in South Africa and India. There was “stark evidence” current border checks were “totally inadequate to stop COVID cases entering the UK”. Leyla Moran, chairman of the committee added: “The government must act now to stop our airports becoming breeding grounds for the virus. That means reducing overcrowding in arrival halls, effectively separating passengers arriving from red list countries and carrying out thorough checks to root out fake documentation and ensure people comply with the rules.”
The APPG on Coronavirus is carrying out an ongoing cross-party inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and will be using evidence given at its latest session to make follow-up recommendations on border policy and international travel, after first recommending securing the UK’s borders in August last year.