Northern Ireland

Anger over change to Border Force jobs

The Border Force manages UK border controls on customs and immigration.
Image caption The Border Force manages UK border controls on customs and immigration.

Former members of the armed forces have told the BBC they feel discriminated against because they can't apply for Border Force jobs.

The Border Force manages UK border controls on customs and immigration.

The Home Office advertised for positions in the rest of the UK stating that applicants needed two A levels or military service.

In Northern Ireland the application criteria has been changed following advice from the Equality Commission.

The Commission says the reliance on military service could discriminate against Catholics and women here - so it was removed as an alternative to A levels.

Image caption Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner with the Equality Commission

Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner with the Equality Commission said: "Because the military are made up predominately in this place from the protestant community and also from males rather than females it was possible that those from a catholic community or females would feel that this was indirectly discriminatory. "

However one catholic ex-soldier who did not wish to be identified has spoken to BBC NI's 'The View' programme.

The army veteran applied to the Border Force but was told that because he did not have two A levels his application could not proceed.

He said: "I just feel let down. I just feel very disappointed, very frustrated."

He added: "I initially sent an email to Border Force and they did not respond and it was only after two phone calls and a further email that someone got back to me and if it was just a very limp apology and unfortunately they said that this time that was the criteria.

"I am a veteran and I am sure there were many other veterans who tried to apply. "

Image caption Former solider Mel Brown

Another former soldier who was interested in applying for one of the jobs was Mel Brown.

She told the BBC: "Whenever jobs like this do come up when you can actually you know be out there and be very up front with what your past employment has been.

"It was a severe disappointment to see it turn the way it actually did. I felt very let down. Very let down indeed."

Unionist politicians have criticised the decision to make the criteria in Northern Ireland different from the rest of the UK.

TUV Leader Jim Allister was one of the first to highlight the rule change and the move has also been criticised by the DUP MP Gavin Robinson, the UUP MLA Doug Beattie and the North Down MP Lady Hermon.

The issue has been raised at Westminster and the Immigration Minster Caroline Noakes was quizzed by members of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee.

She told MPs that the government were guided by the employment advice they received from the Equality Commission.

She said: "The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland raised this as a concern and we were obliged to remove it."

It is the latest controversy to surround jobs within the Border Force.

First there was a row when a British passport was deemed essential but that prompted advice from the Equality Commission saying that precluded Irish passport holders - or those without a passport.

The Home Office then dropped the British passport only rule. The move was applauded by a number of nationalist politicians including the SDLP MLA Claire Hanna and Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy.

The Border Force recruitment process is currently ongoing.

BBC NI 'The View' BBC One 22.40 BST

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