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 337.

    An amnesty is insanity. It will just increase the migration of people into this country, helping the traffickers, and all the criminal hangers on from lawyers to gang masters. The problem is a lack of political will and an endless legal conveyer belt that is slow and expensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    @ Unbelievable Trekkers / #305

    Any idea what % actually do pay their dues in response to their invoices? How vigorously is non-payment pursued?

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    This of course sparks a wider debate, but one in which the politicians are scared of. The debate is that of failed Mulit-Racialism and Multi-Culturalism. Both are clearly a disaster,and have seriously lowered our quality of life here in England. Its a very brave white man that tries to walk through Brixton at night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    It will not cost much in the big scheme of things to double the staff to 298. Have them double up for a month and then give them their own desk. This will save billions in the long run for a few million spent now.

    We cannot afford not to spend on immigration staff, and will be the most popular thing any government has done in years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    It's nice work if you can get it, cut services to the bone and then form committees to state the services aren't working!.
    It is getting beyond being funny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I like the idea of a cull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    What really brasses me off about this subject is how out of touch all our politicians are! Labour and Tory let these people stay, Cameron has spent valuable time and money sorting Iran, Iraq and Syria out, I would rather he put our affairs first!
    An MP joining "I'm a Celebrity " will get more of Cameron's time than this burning issue, they make me flipping sick our politicians!

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    3 Million Unemployed.
    4 Million here from Eastern Europe.
    NHS being overwhelmed by immigrant births
    1.5 million immigrants receiving benefits
    25,000 imingrants in prison.

    Press the calculator button and the facts tell you we need to eject thousands of illegal immigrants, not take them in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    "Surely a 12 month closure for all migration wouldnt be that hard to arrange would it?"

    Wouldn't be legally possible under EU and UN laws, which we're the only idiots that actually pay credence to.

  • Comment number 328.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    Here we go again !

    So sad that the gevernment don't want to do anything about this situation !

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Daily we read of mess created in the public sector where accountability and incompetence appears to be rife, yet costing the tax payer billions during a time of economic belt tightening. Allow those who will be of positive benefit to Britain stay and those who are not leave quickly and at minimal cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    This is shameful. We need to close the borders to enable the UKBA/Capita to catch up on the backlog and get this situation under control.

    Surely a 12 month closure for all migration wouldnt be that hard to arrange would it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    Noticeable that there is not a single word from the Literal Doormats on this - remember this was their beacon policy: they were all for granting amnesty. Now that these turncoats are in govt no doubt they have a very different view?

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    No surprises in this story: the consequence of an incoherent set of immigration policy promises made without being prepared to understand the problem before making them nor being prepared to deal sensibly with the realities.
    There will be HYS in very much the same topic in a decade because none of them are prepared to pay enough money to resolve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Sick to death of government incompetence and complicity regarding immigration, sooner or later this is going to kick off on a big scale because there is no mandate for dismantling our nations identity.
    Put the blo*dy army in charge of the borders, after all we do pay them to protect this nation from invasion.
    I don't think DC realises the size of the wasps nest he is poking!

  • Comment number 321.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    244.Brother Phil

    Britain is a nation of immigrants, and has been since the Romans.
    England is a nation Celts and invading Northern Europeans. The last one occuring almost one thousand years go when they merged to form a common white Northen European Christian people.

    Scotland is a nation that has been 95% celtic in origin since biblical times.

    There, fixed it for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Please tell me this is a joke. Every public service in the UK is straining at the seams, we're short of housing, public transport, infrastructure, water, Health Care, you name it, but the fix is MORE people?

    Ask yourself why people travel halfway round the world, crossing many perfectly good countries, to get here. Clue: It's not the climate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    But how many people pay them. I suspect a lot. Mandatory health insurance for tourists and foreign students should be introduced.


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