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 237.

    "The most of what sickens me are the rabbid socialist who agree that immigration is a good thing thing."
    Yes, them and those pesky capitalists that want cheap labour!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    It sounds crazy, especially when you consider that many illegal immigrants are are serious criminals. They really need to be forcefully repatriated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    The business community sets immigration policy threatening to flee elsewhere if there isn't a fresh supply of incredibly cheap labour. This is made palatable by slight of hand and spin about globalisation, skills and competitiveness.

    Just look at the ludicrous changes introduced by Brown that allows 'on-shoring'. Companies are executing mass illegal immigration via the backdoor with impunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    175. wirral18
    This includes all holiday goers. Does anyone get insurance when travelling to this country like we have to when we go on holiday?


    You don't currently get free healthcare by "walking through the door".

    Foreign visitors are already charged for treatment by NHS Trusts whether they have insurance or not...


  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    You look up on any government departments....they are all NOT FIT for purpose, or doing the JOB we taxpayers are being fleeced out of our money, to pay for. It is about time political parties where made to answer for the abuse of squandering our money, and they to be made to pay it all back. They think it is their right to not be held to account.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    "rabbid socialist who agree that immigration is a good thing thing" Ironically they are supporting a right wing capitalist society by allowing mass immigration. Those who truly benefit are the small and large corporates who can employ cheap labour and exploit their workers to pay bigger dividends to shareholders. However they probably can't resolve the hypocrisy of their argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Each and every government is totally incompetent

    what are we paying these Ministers , civil servants, whatever they are called, to do...

    Not fit for purpose.

    get it sorted, close borders, stop giving to illegals.. send them back.
    very few will be against this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Introduce ID cards linked to our National Insurance numbers, that way if you haven't got one then illegals have to pay to use the NHS, can't work and can't get benefits.

    A stern attitude to resolve the problem is required, not tiptoeing around how illegals will feel about it.

    The worse it gets the more of a slap in the face it is to taxpayers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The current Minister (Harper) states he is achieving targets ! I didnt realise his target was to achive an illegal population equivalent to Iceland.
    Perhaps a start might be to even the odds i.e. 149 staff versus 320,000 plus lawyers, stop changing ministers and introduce accountability, stop keep inventing camoflage title such as "net" immigration. This cannot continue to be disregarded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Surely in our age of technology there should be a government link between migrants, employment, the benefits system and social security number.
    I'll bet through that same PC you'd be able to find a link to organize a one-way return flight too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    More immigrants need homes, food and possibly a job and when they are established over here their family members will be entitled to come over...When is this going to stop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    surely time to EMPLOY people to deal with this and save money long term....

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    The head of a maths department for a major Northern red-brick university has stated on numerous occasions that he would prefer only foreign students as they generate so much cash for the university. Effectively they subsidise both R&D and other university courses.
    Training overseas people in the UK is a several £billion industry and we must be careful not to kill this goose.

  • Comment number 224.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Aren't these the same mps that are cutting funding to the Border Agency?

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    How can we justify the level of security at airports and yet we can't stop people just coming in to the country? 174000 we can't account for? This is a shambles of gargantuan proportion. If you turn up illegally then you don't get in. simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    If people done there job propperly we woul not be in this mess

  • Comment number 220.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    No state benefits unless you become a British Citizen. They we we can track their movements properly, no incentive for anyone to become an illegal economic migrant, we can track their tax and NI contributions, and we can force those applying for citizenship to learn the English language to a certain standard and adopt, or at least respect, British values. Appeals to be heard in country of origin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Amnesty for illegals?! I paid thousands on thousands of pounds to get through Immigration. I went through the tortures of the damned to pass all of the UKBA hurdles. I and thousands of others did it the right way, and now they want to give a free pass to criminals?! On yer bike!


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