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 317.

    Good old UK let all and sundry in, mass murderers, rapists, Paedo's get your act together and get rid of them, never mind an Amnesty it is a travesty to those who quite rightly came in to the country through the correct channels. Just what are the Border Agency staff doing to allow them into the UK in the first place, being PC has got us into this state, simply pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Please don't let any more into this country, the british can't get jobs here. So what is the point letting anymore into this country. There is no room for them. OZ has the right idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    I doubt there is a single branch of Government which actually does a good job. One would have to come to the inescapable conclusion that our politicians are inept, incompetent, inadequate and all sorts of other "ins".

    When in opposition, they talk a good talk. When in power they seem incapable of remembering what it was they were saying previously.

    There is something wrong with politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Absolute disgrace. Tax payers keep on digging deep to support people who shouldn't be here! Come on you bunch of useless halfwit public school dunces, wake up and stop the ever increasing flow of people who shouldn't be here. Increase the border/immigration staff and close the borders

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    @237.Unashamedly Independent
    "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!

    Yes, I agree. The situation is unbalanced and out of control for both reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    @305.UnbelievableTekkers, and how many actually get paid and how many get written off? I suspect the majority would get written off after a year or two.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    It's problems with reinforcements! I pay my taxes, not claimed any benefits; nothing and I am one of the 'numbers' in the statistics for immigrants they want to reduce. My services in the Navy wasn't enough to get me out of the 'statistics'. Can't control illegals, penalise the legals. Great!

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Outrageously unfair on those, like my wife and I, who have paid the Border Agencies' rip off fees to comply with the 'system' and do things legally. If this goes ahead we have every right to ask for our money back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    It would appear that the "moderators" ...if they don't agree with your comment they remove it at a whim and without justification. That's called censorship!
    It’s much more likely they are just applying the very clear house rules. I’ve posted on the BNP website and got removed. That is proper censorship, accompanied with abuse.

  • Comment number 308.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    We need to eat the elephant a bite at a time. Introduce fingerprinting, photos, and take a copy of all travel docs at the point of entry for ALL who don't hold British passports. If they overstay we can prove who they are and deport them. Make it a crime to overstay = mandatory prison while "appealing" for residency. Doesn't fix the illegal entry problem, but it's a start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    We're in the midst of a severe recession & with high unemployment, why are any immigrants allowed in? If they are wrongfully in the UK then the authorities shouldn't be taking them to a police station it should be to an airport. If they won't say where they are a national of, start with a list of the worst countries and they will soon decide where else they want as home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    258. wirral18

    Well I'm a solicitor working for one of the country's NHS Trusts, and I can tell you they are supposed to (and mostly do!) ask.

    Foreign visitors are not entitled to free NHS care unless its a life threatening emergency (hence A&E is probably the one place they don't ask).

    I've seen NHS invoices to foreigners for maternity, inpatient stays, operations, diagnostic tests,

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    "Pathetic. I know a guy who received a letter refusing him leave to remain in the UK. A letter! What do you suppose he did with it? That was three years ago. He's been illegal since the 1980s; he's still here"

    Grass him up then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    There is a lot of anger in this forum and the most anger is from those who are legal immigrants.

    Lets build somewhere in a very remote part of UK (Outer Hebrides?). All illegal immigrants are held their until their status is determined. Genuine ayslum seekers are allowed, everyone else is deported

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    I employed a Pakistani guy a few years ago, and sometimes members of his family, they were smashing people. But the dad said to me one day 'Why does the government allow so many bad families to come here? We know who they are, they are bad people'. It's way past time for the race card to be thrown out of immigration. It's about good and bad, and notice that the dad said 'families'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    There are a multitude of reasons why this is allowed! 2 main ones are 1)we now have a good selection of cheap labour that our 'businesses' can exploit for their own benefit ie. lower wage costs employ an illegal and they wont cost as much!! it really is this simple secondly speak up about it and you are a racist! fact! well now we have sown the seeds we SHALL reap the wirlwind NHS Prisons bye bye

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    The open door policy of the past certainly has left Britain with a major problem, even so, I cannot understand why the Government doesn't employ more officers at the UK Border Agency to solve this problem, or would that be to easy an answer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Implementing a system that flashes up people who have overstayed their visas or holiday time, should be considered. But no government seems to be bright enough to think of that, the solution is very simple but they just make things overly complicated! And they have NO common sense whatsoever it seems, how shameful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    This has resulted from the Government cutting corners instead of making sure unsavoury individuals do not get a chance to settle here and then it costs millions to getr rid of them. Our borders arr ethe first line of defence but Cameron and May seem to think little of the threat posed by cutting back on staff. I know an immigration officer who says the current level of stffing is a joke.


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