An illegal immigrant with a forged passport managed to secure a job in the House of Commons. The scandal has sparked fresh concerns about security measures in the heart of British power.
The woman in question, thought to be from crisis-ridden Sierra Leone, was arrested on December 2 after officials discovered her passport was fake.
She had been working for two months as a casual caterer in the Palace of Westminster, having been put forward for the post by a recruitment agency.
The agency had reportedly been responsible for carrying out checks on the woman’s background.
Her status as a temporary staff member at the palace meant that she was supposed to be accompanied by an escort at all times on parliamentary grounds. However, it was claimed on Monday night that she had been allowed to move with ease around Westminster using a pass owned by a colleague, who was a permanent staff member.
The House of Commons confirmed the arrest on Monday night.
A Commons spokeswoman told The Times that a worker contracted by the House was “arrested by the Metropolitan Police on Friday January 2.”
The spokeswoman, however, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
The incident bears an uncanny resemblance to a case which occurred in 2008. On this occasion, a woman from Brazil was arrested following her attempt to enter British parliament using the security pass of another individual.
The latest security breach comes at a time of heightened national security in Britain, with the nation’s terror threat level raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ last summer amid growing fears of a possible attack.
It also raises important questions about the state’s current system for carrying out security checks on parliamentary grounds.
The woman’s role as a caterer meant she was stationed across all Commons cafés and private dining quarters, and would have had direct access to senior British MPs and ministers.
In late November, Home Secretary Theresa May introduced Britain’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. The bill is aimed at tackling the growing threat posed by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).May said at the time that the UK now faces a greater terror threat than ever before.