Strict police checks on foreign nationals living in Britain have been secretly dropped.
Tens of thousands of people from 44 countries – including Russia and China – no longer have to give details to the police when they move to this country.
They include those in Middle Eastern states such as Iraq, Iran and Syria that harbor terrorist cells that actively boast of an agenda hostile to Britain.
The checks, known as the police registration programme, were abruptly halted at the end of last week without a public announcement from the Home Office, border forces or immigration authorities.
As recently as 2016, a Home Office minister insisted the scheme was necessary “in order to maintain security”.
Police forces have begun telling foreign nationals that the program has been “suspended with immediate effect” and all check-in appointments have been cancelled.
Tens of thousands of people from 44 countries – including Russia and China – no longer have to give details to the police when they move to this country
An immigration expert advising the Home Office said: ‘It’s a shock. It happened overnight. The information gathered from these individuals is an important intelligence asset.
We did not think about public safety. It is madness right now as we are in the midst of disagreements with Russia and China, each of which sends its people to study or work there.
But a Home Office spokesman said last night: ‘These anonymous claims are untrue and misguided.
“This scheme dates back to World War I and is no longer effective as the data provided to the police is already collected by the Home Office when individuals apply to enter the UK.
“The police agree with the government and have recommended that the program be abolished so that officers can focus on keeping order and solving crimes.
“It is not used by police to monitor individuals and to claim otherwise is false.”
44 countries in the program
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Macau , Moldova, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen.
Registration of students, workers and long-term visitors with police forces has been standard practice for decades. It was introduced in 1909 amid concerns about German espionage.
The criteria used by the Interior Ministry to decide which nationalities should register with the police have never been published.
But these are thought to be countries whose nationals pose a higher risk of terrorism or other crimes, or who pose a higher risk of committing immigration offenses such as overstaying a visa.
The scheme covered foreign nationals over the age of 16 who had been allowed to live in that country for more than six months.
They had to appear in person at a police station and pay a £34 fee to have their documents checked.
They had to keep the police informed of any change of address, name or visa, and if they changed jobs.
The rules on who had to register were set out in the Home Office’s immigration rules, which are 1,500 pages and have been criticized for their complexity.
At a Met Police building in south London yesterday, which was used for all registrations of eligible foreign nationals in the capital, a sign on the door read: ‘The police registration scheme has been abolished. “
South Yorkshire Police confirmed on Friday that the scheme had been repealed.
A statement on its website said: ‘The general requirement under immigration rules for certain foreign nationals to register with the police has ceased. Upon receipt of this notice, you are no longer required to register with the police.
A similar announcement appeared on the University of Nottingham website.
In 2016, Lord Keen, then Home Office spokesman in the Lords, described to his peers how the police registration scheme allowed the details of foreign nationals to be officially registered, and added: ‘ This information is then recorded for the police and other law enforcement agencies. access, if necessary, in order to maintain security.
Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “This raises public safety concerns and the Home Office should think again.”
“Abandoning such checks on Russian and Chinese nationals, in particular, is ridiculous given all that is going on. It is simply wrong and simply dangerous.
“This is yet another indication of a lack of political will to maintain proper controls on immigration.”
The Interior Ministry granted 166,646 visas last year to Chinese nationals, 30,736 to Russians, 8,897 to Afghans, 8,339 to Iranians, 5,929 to Iraqis, 4,098 to Syrians and 1,521 to Libyans.
The National Police Chiefs Council said: “The council concurred with the assessment that the scheme no longer provided any public protection benefits to police and supported the decision to modernize reporting requirements for foreign nationals.
“Information required by police to conduct law enforcement activities continues to be available against those who are subject to visa requirements.”