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
    +22

    Comment number 217.

    I am not opposed to having migrants in the country. But it should be limited to all but qualified individuals and their families who have jobs and accommodation arranged. The doors should be closed until the backlog has been sorted and we find a system that allows us to cope with applications correctly .This country has a chronic shortage of houses & jobs but we still let immigrants in.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 216.

    Sorry...close the borders to new immigration applications / seekers...sort out current problems...design a fairer, safer and effective immigrant system for this country, not one not to comply with some stupid EU quota....then reopen borders. No amnesty! Employ more border staff to deal with current issues...lets get tough on this issue and stop pussy-footing about, worrying about human rights.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 215.

    The most of what sickens me are the rabbid socialist who agree that immigration is a good thing thing.

    They have no idea of the hardship those born here are going through trying to get decent housing and being put lower down the list because of immigrants getting priority over them.

    SOCIALISTS STINK. They are happy to gleefully inflict hardship on people born here without any remorse.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 214.

    my husband is a legal migrant to the UK, He is also a commonwealth citizen. He is entitled to nothing. The EU migrants get more than he does. I am shocked that there is even talk of an amnesty let alone doing it. I am guessing the reason why is because actually, the UKB are doingit anyway and want the news out before its leaked. Amnesty will make it worse, show the UK as a soft touch, DONT DO IT!

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 213.

    Fetch the troops back and employ them in the immigration authority. They would be far more use there in securing our safety and borders.

  • rate this
    -61

    Comment number 212.

    This is the inevitable consequence of cuts in public service funding. Like in USA, the British Border Agency is now too small to control and manage immigration. The cost of repairing the damage is too high - and the best solution is to wipe the slate clean (grant total amnesty to anyone who has been here for over 5 years) and start again.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 211.

    what's that phrase about not being able to organise something in a brewery?!

    Sneak in, wait a bit and wow your a citizen! Do Australia offer a similiar scheme?

  • Comment number 210.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 209.

    This could be disastrous for our economy, it's like lending someone money because you think they're desperate, only to find out they've spent it on beer. I thought the Government's priority was cutting the welfare bill? We need to shut the borders altogether for two years - at the very least.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 208.

    Illegal immigrants should be sent back where they belong and no they do not belong here.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 207.

    The UK immigration agency is a joke and should closed down and replaced by the military (what about those who served their country and then got made redundant) oversee immigration. 320,000 people floating around the UK, how many are working legally or not, how many are claiming benefits, how many are terrorists. Giving these people an amnesty shows the UK is an easy target for immigrants.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 206.

    Well this govt was going to cut the immigration that the Labour ramble had allowed in. All three political parties have FAILED on this issue. It is easy to solve, NO IMMIGRATION FULL STOP. Immigrants take the jobs from young British workers. The real blame is companies who employ immigrants on the cheap, bringing British wages diown so increasing your suffering.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 205.

    Kieth Vaz is being disingenuos, it was his government that openned the floodgates under Jack Straw and then did didlysquat about it.
    An Amnesty will send out the worng message, Deport the lot.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 204.

    Its all down to Labour and Blair. Why cant we kick out the immigrants? What a soppy country we live in.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 203.

    As a husband who has married an foreigner, who was denied a visa, this kind of news is perplexing. I cannot see how the Border Agency can allow illegal immigrants amnesty but deny those who now have husbands/wives in the UK, since one of the main factors that the UK Government keeps mentioning, is that a rising cost of living, these immigrants create.

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 202.

    Another government policy fail. We are an overpopulated country. Just like the USA, Canada, Australia and many others, we should only allow people who are legally here to stay. And now we see the government has not made the resources available to enforce this.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 201.

    NO to any amnesty - the figures that are being bounded around by the Government is only the tip of the ice berg no one truly knows the scale of the problem but what I can tell you from my own experiences is that the problem it is much larger than we all understand. The NHS is failing, Social Housing is failing to keep up and the UK Government is turning is back on its own people.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 200.

    Three years ago I got a UK Tier 1 visa within 48 hours. 2 months ago I applied to extend this and will only receive my passport and visa back in another 3 months. This means I am not able to apply for a new job, I have to pay 6 months rent upfront in London, and can't travel outside the UK for 5 months. This backlog is absolutely ridiculous and for this service I had to pay £1,500 upfront.

  • Comment number 199.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 198.

    An admission of defeat by past and present governments.We have had rampant immigration for years mainly under Labour and this has fuelled the rise in illegal immigration.The strain this puts on our services is unimanigable but we stand for it like lambs to the slaughter. In 10 years time there will be another amnesty for illegals and another after that.As a nation we are in our death throws

 

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