Home Office Signals Progress for campaign to extend e-passport gate access to British Nationals Overseas Passport holders
Home Office Signals Progress for Hong Kong’s Holders of British Nationals Overseas Passports.
On Monday March 4th Lord Alton of Liverpool chaired a meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of the charity, Hong Kong Watch. Eminent attendees at the event included Steve Double MP, Lord James Selkirk of Douglas and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. A capacity audience heard accounts from five activists from Hong Kong. The main focus of the meeting was about the 152,350 Hong Kongers who hold a BNO passport.
At the meeting, Lord Alton said;
“It is positive that the United Kingdom is looking to become world leaders in automated passenger clearance, but it is puzzling that privileged access is being given to foreign nationals from the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, while people holding British passports continue to wait in line. It is particularly confusing that the Hong Kong SAR passport has access to the e-passport gates, but BNO passports do not.
What does it communicate to the rest of the world that British passports holders are being forced to queue not only behind every European, but also foreign nationals"
Following the meeting, Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Home Office Minister has promised, in a letter to Lord Alton , that the Home Office will examine the restrictions on BNO passport holders being able to use automated passenger clearance.
She said: "In respect of British National (Overseas) passport holder, the Government intends to consider whether this group can be added to the list of those able to use ePassport gates routinely. If, after consideration, this group are found to be suitable for inclusion, we will endeavour to add them at the next opportunity."
More details about the seminar
Alongside Lord Alton's speech at the event, Benedict Rogers, Chair of Trustees at Hong Kong Watch, emphasised the worsening human rights situation and Britain’s obligations to not forget Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration. Referring to John Major’s famous 1996 speech, Mr Rogers said “[The former Prime Minister] John Major promised that Hong Kong will never have to walk alone. It is our responsibility to live up to that promise.”
After this, Aileen Calverley, another of Hong Kong Watch’s trustee and the convenor of Hong Kong Watch's BNO community, shared details of existing rights and highlighted that it was vital for BNO living in the U.K. to make the most of their right to vote and raise their concerns through letters and meetings with their local Members of Parliament. Most MPs have no knowledge of BNO, and so she emphasised why it is important to get more MPs to support the rights of BNO.
5 BNO activists then made a range of proposals.