By Melissa Kite
Deputy Political Editor
An illegal immigrant was able to work at the House of Commons using a
fake identity pass in a serious breach of security.
The Government stands accused of a cover-up after leaked documents,
obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, showed that Liam Byrne, the
immigration minister, was informed immediately of the case of the
Brazilian woman, a cleaner, when she was arrested at Parliament 10 days
ago. Yet the Home Office confirmed the security breach - one of the most
serious to affect Westminster - only after being contacted by this
newspaper last night.
A letter marked "restricted" and "urgent" was sent to Mr Byrne and Lin
Homer, who heads the Border and Immigration Agency, on January 31,
warning them that a woman who had absconded from Heathrow airport three
years earlier had been arrested at Westminster that day.
Elaine Chaves Aparecida was detained by police after a random check on
her security pass showed that it belonged to someone else. She had been
working there, since December 3 last year as the employee of a cleaning
company, Emprise Services.
Under questioning, Miss Chaves, 31, admitted that she had run away from
immigration officials at Heathrow Terminal 4 in December 2004 before she
could be refused entry.
The letter from Tony Smith, the regional director of the immigration
agency, admits that officials still have no idea how the Brazilian came
to obtain a Commons pass or even to whom it belonged.
But, crucially, it predicts that the level of controversy will be "high"
and advises ministers that they should take a "reactive approach" to the
Jonathan Lindley, strategic director at the immigration agency, said
last night: "All employers have a responsibility to check the legal
status of workers they employ. Where the police arrest illegal workers,
we will work hand-in-hand to secure their rapid removal from the UK."
The breach comes only a few months after Jacqui Smith, the Home
Secretary, was forced to admit that as many as 11,000 non-European Union
nationals licensed to work in the security industry might be illegal
immigrants. It was discovered that one of them had been responsible for
overseeing Tony Blair's car while in repair.
The Conservatives demanded urgent action to prevent further breaches.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: "Of all the Home
Office disasters, this has the biggest security implications.
"Ministers like to talk tough about cracking down on employers but it is
clear that the system is failing in our most sensitive buildings. What
makes this even worse is that ministers' first instinct was to cover it
"We need an immediate, full explanation of what is being done to prevent
any repetition of this terrifying breach of security and a commitment
from ministers to genuine openness.
Miss Smith survived the foreign workers dispute at the end of last year
after Downing Street said she had not made a mistake in failing to tell
Gordon Brown of the news as soon as she discovered the lapse in August.
She denied accusations of a cover-up.
But the latest documents are likely will fuel that ministers are failing
to come clean on a scandal, amid suggestions that the security industry
is not the only one that might be employing illegal workers in
It is also potentially more embarrassing for the Government because it
involves such a flagrant breech of Commons security. As a cleaner, Miss
Chaves would have had widespread access to many areas of Parliament,
including offices used by MPs and peers.
It is not the first time that the security of Parliament has been called
into question. In 2004 an undercover reporter reportedly smuggled a fake
bomb into the Commons where he was working in the catering department
and a Fathers 4 Justice campaigner threw purple flour packages at Mr
Blair during Prime Ministers' Questions.
The Commons authorities recently introduced a new entry system that
requires the entering of a personal identification number after a pass
is scanned. But the system was installed at the beginning of the year
and questions will inevitably be asked of why the illegal worker could
still gain entry using a stolen pass in January.
Miss Chaves was due to be returned to Brazil last week after being held
Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008
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