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 257.

    The UKBA in my opinion is to blame for allowing Illegal Immigrants ito this country and its a disgrace that they turn a blind eye to clearly illegal people.

    You can walk round any large city and see the impact of mass illegal immigrants on our society.

    These people have no right to live or work here so remove them using every method they can before this country turns into a third world country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Illegal immigrants = illegal work under illegal conditions.

    Also = fast profit and a barrier to improving workers rights in the uk.

    Why would government care ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I remember watching the documentary about the UKBA on TV. I can remember thinking about the advert they were sending out to the world about how ineffective they were. Their job seemed to consist of spending loads of public money tracking an illegal entrant. When they eventually caught the person he would say "If you send me home I must surely die" after which he was taken down the road and let go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Until the government alters the law enabling border control to automatically send ALL immigrants without a visa straight back home nothing will change in the UK. Currently the lawyers make many millions out of legal aid preventing deportation. Most UK politicians are lawyers so just want to keep the gravy train going for their profession.

  • Comment number 253.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    The only point of an amnesty is to make the figures look better. Deport them as & when we can, deny them NHS, welfare. Ditto any children. Amnesty just says that they got away with it, and encourages others. Rather than open the doors until we can get it right, why not close the doors entirely until we can get it right. Halt immigration altogether, including EU until it's sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    How about a zero tolerance policy - no ifs, no buts, if you're here illegally you WILL be deported regardless of circumstance.

    Britian is full.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    I bet Dave's "App" (as reported by BBC yesterday) is going absolutely bonkers with feedback about this.

    Mind you, as predicted by many, he won't take the blindest bit of notice and sort out this issue once and for all...

    Mind you, for the conspiricy theorists out there, could the rehashing of this topic be a convenient one to slip some other bad news under the radar? ;o)

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    thats ok then so if the police cant find the burglars we give them amnesty too !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    What we need to state is ALL illegal immigrants, no matter how long they have been in this country, 1 day, 1 week, 1 year, 10 years, 50 years, etc., when they are found out they will be deported, NO Amnesty, NO let-offs. Give them something to think about.

  • Comment number 247.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    There is no responsibility in the civil service. Caseworkers regularly make mistakes with no consequence. Senior managers seem to swap jobs every few months like they’re on some sort of merry-go-round, never getting to grips with the department they’re supposed to be running. The whole system is a joke and must be very frustrating for the frontline officers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    A cynical person might conclude that this is a part of policy... unless ministers from all parties are willing to accept that they have been wholly ineffectual when it comes to forming and enforcing immigration policy?

    And if that is the case it should be removed from their remit and authority handed to an independent body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Britain is a nation of immigrants, and has been since the Romans. People come, and if they are good enough at what it takes to get by, their community thrives. Once upon a time, it was "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough", and if they were, after a generation or two they were as British as us, and made us harder. Now it seems you need to work for a pittance, so that's what they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Just before my Grandfather died he told me that he had spent 4 years fighting in the 2nd World War to protect our shores and now we just let anyone in. He felt that his war effort was a wasted one and when he was in hospital he had a nurse who could hardly speak a word of English and did not understand that he needed certain medication at certain times....he died a few days later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    I welcome a legal immigrants with open arms and they bring great benefits to our country.
    Our immigration service however has been in meltdown for twenty years due to lack of in and out border controls.
    The number of times I have seen a TV programme where illegal immigrants are caught, processed and the released with instruction to report every week, disappear and don't is crazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I hope B-liar and Brown are pleased with themselves. What a legacy their misguided policies have left this country. They should hang their heads in shame! Unforgivable!

  • Comment number 240.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    For some strange reason, people who cannot even speak the English lanuage coherently (in some cases) are given asylum and handed amnesty JUST becuase they have been here for a period of time. However, people (like myself - I am a 22 year old scientist, and have worked here for the past 3 years now), who contribute to medical development are denied opportunities and work permits. It is not fair.

  • Comment number 238.

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


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