Lawyer unswayed by immigration package

The introduction of new technology in UK entry ports will allow immigration officials to check for illegal immigrants in just 15 seconds.

A computer which can read passports and process them against a central data bank of 400,000 suspects has been on trial at Heathrow, Gatwick and Dover for 12 months.

Now the Home Office has announced the beginning of a £10 million project to introduce the system nationwide.

The system, created by ICL Enterprises, will replace a 300-page book which holds details of 10,000 of the most serious suspects.

Immigration Minister Nicholas Baker said: "We now have one of the most advanced and effective immigration systems in the world.

"It has helped increase the detection rate of those whose presence here is undesirable while easing the entry of genuine visitors."

Immigration lawyer Jane Coker, partner at London firm Jane Coker & Partners, is representing the family of illegal immigrant Joy Gardner. She is highly critical of the system.

"The new steps taken by the Home Office have very worrying implications for immigrants who will not be able to appeal against decisions often made very rashly at ports of entry," she said.

Graham Goulden, a spokesman for ICL Enterprises, is confident that the system is reliable and will be of as much benefit to immigrants as the Home Office.

He explained: "The database has the capacity to keep information more up to date and detailed than before, allowing photographs and hand-written documents to be stored. The main advantage of the system will be the speed of the entry process."