Why Do British Passport Holders Have to Take a PCR Test as a Condition of Entry to the U.K. But Not Illegal Migrants?

A member of the House of Lords has written to us, pointing out an anomaly in the British Government’s testing rules for people travelling to the U.K. which he uncovered via a Parliamentary Question to a Home Office minister.

You may be interested in the written Parliamentary Question below. During Covid I have been travelling regularly to Brussels for business meetings. Despite being double vaccinated, every time I return to the U.K., even if I have only been abroad for two days, I must take a PCR test before returning as I am told that the lateral flow test is unsatisfactory.

Yet here is HMG giving illegal migrants who almost certainly are unvaccinated no PCR tests at all. Also, HMG is quoting as its source for advice Public Health England – the same people quoted by HMG as advising business people and holidaymakers that lateral flow tests are not a satisfactory safeguard.

Next week when the House returns I will put down some follow-up questions.

Best wishes,

Richard Balfe

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2330):

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of COVID-19 PCR tests on illegal immigrants to the U.K. have returned a positive result; and of these positive samples, what percentage have now been genomically sequenced. (HL2330)

Tabled on: August 18th, 2021

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether immigrants entering the U.K. from France illegally are required to have a COVID-19 PCR test upon detection by police or immigration officers. (HL2329)

Answer: Baroness Williams of Trafford: The Home Office is following guidance published by Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland and the NHS with regards to Covid testing for migrant arrivals.

All migrants are tested on arrival with a lateral flow test, any refusing are treated as if infectious and isolated. Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but who may still be spreading the virus. Arrivals who present as symptomatic or who provide a positive lateral flow test are allocated to an approved quarantine site.

Due to the small possibility of false positives associated with lateral flow tests, any individual who receives a positive result at a residential short-term holding facility in England or an Immigration Removal Centre, will be offered a PRC test to confirm the result. Any detained individual with symptoms of COVID-19, or testing positive for COVID-19 will be placed in protective isolation for at least 10 days and Public Health England informed.

We do not hold information regarding the percentage which have been genomically sequenced as this is the responsibility of Public Health England.

Date and time of answer: September 2nd, 2021, at 15:55.

If any readers have suggestions for follow-up questions, please email us here and we will pass them on.