02 June 2000
The deal will also allow immigration officers to patrol the cross-Channel Eurostar trains, which have been spotlighted as a popular route for asylum seekers trying to reach Britain.
Home Secretary Jack Straw and his French counterpart, Jean-Pierre Chévènement, finalised details of the agreement this week. It will allow British officers to check passengers at stations in Paris and elsewhere in France, while affording French police similar rights at Waterloo station in London and Ashford in Kent.
'Although the new measures have to be ratified, they should come into force next year and will increase our efforts to deter unfounded asylum seekers and the people who organise the illegal immigration rackets,' said Straw.
On a wider scale, the EU agreement commits member nations to sharing criminal intelligence and bringing Britain into the Schengen information system, a Strasbourg-based database designed to combat growing cross-border crime. The system enables law agencies to track stolen vehicles and arms, or fleeing suspects across the borders of member states.
But civil liberties bodies are worried that the expansion of the scheme will lack accountability, and that data protection provisions may become harder to enforce and provide limited scope for judicial review. 'It is a massive extension of powers,' said Tony Bunyan, who runs the Statewatch organisation.