Border Agency may hand 'amnesty' to migrants, MPs warn


Immigration Minister Mark Harper: "We are checking to see people are still here... we are absolutely not granting amnesty"

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The UK Border Agency's attempts to clear a massive backlog of cases could become an "amnesty" for immigrants with no right to be in the UK, MPs say.

Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the backlog was almost the same as Iceland's population (320,000) and spiralling out of control.

MPs voiced concerns about plans to close an archive of unresolved cases of people officials had lost contact with.

But ministers denied it would result in anyone being granted an amnesty.

The MPs also criticised the way the Border Agency had dealt with mentally ill immigrants facing removal.

In its latest regular report on the workings of the agency, the committee said the total of all the separate backlogs of cases across the immigration system had stood at more than 302,000 at the end of June. That was up 25,000 over three months.

Some 174,000 of the cases were in what is known as the "migration refusal pool". These are people who are recorded as having no permission to be in the UK, but officials do not know if they have left or have stayed without authorisation - or have perhaps been accepted lawfully after a separate application.

UKBA case backlog

  • Current asylum cases 25,500
  • Asylum "controlled archive" 74,000
  • Current immigration cases: 3,500
  • Immigration "controlled archive": 21,000
  • Migration Refusal Pool 174,057
  • Former foreign prisoners: 3,954
  • Untraced former foreign prisoners: 53
  • Total: 302,064

The pool, set up in 2008, came to light only earlier this year when it was discovered by the chief inspector of immigration, John Vine.

As of August, a further 95,000 cases were in what the agency calls "controlled archives" - piles of unresolved applications made by individuals with whom officials are no longer in touch.

The UKBA has pledged to close the controlled archives by the end of 2012, but MPs said they were not convinced final checks on each case could be done to an acceptable standard, given that only 149 staff were dealing with them.

"We are concerned that the closure of the controlled archives may result in a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case," said the MPs.

"Preparations should be made for the event that a number of people whose applications are closed may subsequently be discovered to be in the country.

"We expect to hear from the agency what the consequence of this would be both for the individual concerned and for the taxpayer. We are particularly interested to find out whether any such individuals would be offered an amnesty."

'Robust approach'

Mr Vaz said: "Entering the world of the UKBA is like falling through the looking glass. The closer we look, the more backlogs we find, their existence obscured by opaque names such as the 'migration refusal pool' and the 'controlled archive'.

Start Quote

Every day it gets harder to live illegally in the UK - we are tracking people down and taking action against them”

End Quote Mark Harper Immigration Minister

"UKBA must adopt a transparent and robust approach to tackling this problem instead of creating new ways of camouflaging backlogs."

But Immigration Minister Mark Harper said a lot of the cases had been "inherited" over a long period of time and many would "actually turn out not to be in the country".

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "But we're absolutely not granting an amnesty. If those people ever show up again we will take very firm action against them. We're working through that backlog steadily and we're making good progress."

Mr Harper insisted the government was taking "robust action" and it was increasingly "harder" to live illegally in the UK.

"We are tracking people down and taking action against them. We are restricting access to benefits, free healthcare and financial products, and businesses can be fined up to £10,000 for every illegal worker they employ."

The MPs also said they were concerned that since 2011 the UK Border Agency had lost four court cases in which judges said immigration detainees with mental health problems had been falsely imprisoned and subject to inhuman or degrading treatment.

"We are concerned that the cases... may not be isolated incidents but may reflect more systemic failures in relation to the treatment of mentally ill immigration detainees," said the MPs.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The phrase "not fit for purpose" springs to mind!

    After the London riots, courts sat 24 hours a day to clear the backlog and justice was delivered quickly. The same needs to apply here, if the claim for asylum is unsuccessful then the applicant is then put on a plane within 24 hours, no protracted appeal, no debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Let 'em all in I say, and give them a house, unqualified benefits and all thier familes too. After all - the benefit to the UK - is to construction companies who can them plough up virgin green field sites and make a quick buck leasing the properites back to the local authorites at inflated rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Theresa Mayhem strikes again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The country has mass unemployment and has done for more than 30 years. We have a massive housing crisis, with ever increasing waiting list for so called social housing. Our welfare system is at breaking point with funding be slashed at every point. The NHS cannot cope with the people already in this country. Our prisons are full & crime continues to rise. So why are these migrants needed?

  • Comment number 33.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Remove any immigrants that are here illegally or as economic migrants ASAP!
    We have nearly 3million unemployed and 1.5million underemployed it's well past time to keep Britain British!
    The sooner we remove ourselves from the EU the better - the leaky borders are largely due to their edicts we have to follow

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    We should focus on the actual problem. It is the cost in every sense of bringing more people into our country. This cost is quantifiable.

    I suggest:-

    Individuals can come here if they pay a large sum on entry to the UK.

    A smaller sum could be paid by families to bring in a family member but they have to act as a guarantor.

    Provision should also be made for charities to bring people here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Border Police State, with ID Cards for all?

    OR, 'No Hiding Place for wicked': social inclusion to eliminate under-classes & criminal classes?

    GIVEN domestic Full Employment, no 'necessary harm' in Visitor Workers, or (for Legal Visitors) in NHS care etc for families, or (for love of country) in naturalisation for contributors of good conduct

    Let 'the best country' win… and its example spread

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    This is becoming a joke... You incompetently allow the total to become embarrassing and then organise an amnesty to bring the total down. Word on the street is always hide until the amnesty!!! It is a travesty to all those who entered legally. Why cannot the UKBA operate the same as other countries? Also why are they recruiting when we have thousands of ex armed forces looking for jobs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    "Public Sector in being utterly useless shocker"

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    NO to any amnesty - what message does that send? Stay here illegally long enough and eventually you can stay?

    We need more Border Staff - not less. Fines for anyone employing illegals should be raised through the roof.

    We have enough problems caring for our own - after my retirement age being shifted twice, I'm not prepared to pay for anymore of these people - GET RID!!!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    YES to any amnesty under all circumstances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Election Pledge:

    "Immigration is 'too high' and will be reduced to levels last seen in the mid-1990s under a Tory election blueprint to restore Britain's 'sense of national purpose'."

    Oh, THAT's what they meant - they would deal with immigrants by letting them all stay here.

    This is the lazy option by an incompetent and lazy government.

    No deterrent to others contemplating entering the UK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    So the government cuts funding and staffing to the UKBA then wonders why the department can't meet the targets set for them? At the moment, they employ staff from Capita to try and make up the shortfall in staffing levels and to the best of knowlege, all they do is phone people up and tell them their visa has expired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    This is what happens when you cut back public services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    No surrender here,find them all and send them all back and introduce rewards to encourage people to grass them up.
    Then change a few laws to stop them coming here in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    What an absolutely farcial disgrace, and one which puts paid to any pretence that the Coalition are going to right the wrongs of Labour's previous uncontrolled immigration policy.

    Still, the next few rounds of unemployment figures should prove interesting for the government if they do go ahead with this lunacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I thought first line services would not be affected by the cut backs. Yeah right, lies.

    What we don’t know of course is what deals have been struck behind closed does and other EU countries and besides a pool of cheap labour helps suppress the wages of the working man and boosts the profits of the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    So, because theres so many people breaking the law we should stop pursuing them.
    Outrageous, Can we have an amnesty on robbing banks please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    This is at least the third illegal migrant amnesty I can remember in recent years. Why do you think they keep travelling from all over the world to get here? Because there’s a good chance they will be able to stay permanently if they aren't caught within a couple of years. This is an outrage, the first priority of any government is to secure the borders. Do it now!


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