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 357.

    immigrants should be made to apply before even allowed to enter the country. Applications should be made from their own country before they leave and if not sent back on the same transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Perhaps we should start by sorting out the business,s and people who are employing many of these illegal immigrants as cheap labour and setting themselves the future saviour of the British economy by giving low paid work to people who should not be in the country,I am sure many of these employers are known to the immigration service .
    Get rid of the incompetent Home Secretary and others at top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Are they implying that it will be cheaper for the economy and safer for the nation to let these 300,000+ criminals to stay here claiming benefits and British jobs (sending the money back home), than it would be for a cheap plane ticket per person to send them back.
    Seems like someone is being paid for not doing their job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    Has anybody actually witnessed the problems they are having in the USA, in the states that connect to the Mexican border? They have set up internal (50 miles inland) border control points, just like Checkpoint Charlie, you are asked, irrespective of who you are, to confirm your citizenship status. They rarely detain illegals; however they do antagonise all the locals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    This is not the land of milk and honey anymore we are fit to bust and we have more than enough draining this ill country as it is.This is a serious issue - politically no one has the backbone to sort it. We are not talking racism here we are talking plain common sense.Is it fair to see our family starve while we feed our neighbors?Immigration has to stop - it has gone too far - as simple as that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    The Economy needs immigrants.

    This is never discussed but the pyramid economy only works if you bring in new people at the bottom. If you stop that happening then you go into recession.

    That is the Real Reason for immigration, otherwise the doors would just be locked. It's that simple.

    The BBC never reports it because then you would worry that our society and economy is a sham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    There are two reasons this has occurred - the processes for recording nationals and leaving the country are terrible. Probably the easiest way to illegally enter the country is come here on holiday and never leave. The second reason is a legal one and the time/cost to removing people. Resolving them are actually very simple but you need political will power to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    That old chestnut again. “They do not get free NHS treatment”

    Everybody gets free NHS treatment except taxpayers.

    We do not leave people laying in the streets (and neither should we) the ambulance will pick up anybody and take them to hospital where they will be treated whether or not they can eventually pay the bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Have any of these people ever dealt with the Border agency? I'm a UK resident, with 4 British grandparents and mother. I was not entitled to be Brish Cas of right till a few years ago; when I checked the problems were too much. So I got Irish nationality to which I was also entitled and kept my US nationality. The border staff I have dealt with are OK but the system - a nightmare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Good to see Mark "let's sell off all the public forests" Harper is at the helm. Need an MP with a bit of backbone to sort this issue out once and for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I'm going to join the other legal immigrants and vent my frustration. I paid the exorbitant visa fees. I took the Life in the UK test. I paid yet more fees for ILR. I pay my taxes. I'm unable to claim benefits. (wouldn't want to anyway)

    I'm a contributing member of society and have been for almost 5 years. How come these folks get a free pass because UKBA did something stupid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Each one will more than likely get a house worth millions and our pensioners and disable will have to pay.

  • Comment number 345.

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

  • Comment number 344.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Re. Farrow Neil, #65:

    "Anyone who politicises this issue is a traiter;
    ...(bla bla bla)...
    Vote UKIP if you are concerned for your children's future."

    Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

    Or maybe I am the one who is a "traiter"(sic) ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Immigration isnt a problem for many countries, it is an opportunity. If UK can't benefit from it, it is because of the poor immigration system and the inability to track and remove illegal immigrants.

    Immigration is a vote magnet to attract poorly informed citizens on immigration, so politicians (especially Conservatives) wont make any efford to resolve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    I am British by birth as was my father , grandfather great grandfather , great great grandfather and all my forbears as far back as I can see . Naturally I hold a British passport . I was refused entry to the UK at the eu citizen barrier and directed to stand in the non EU queue because I was travelling with a non eu passport holder . Work that one out .

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    I am appalled by this,and somewhat angry that it's been allowed to get to this stage.
    May should get her head out of the sand and sort it out before the word gets around that GB is an island of freeloaders - We'll pay you so that you can get the best care, loads of cash, a good house to live in If you don't like it, you can sue us through the Human Rights courts! Hold on, word's out already,damn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    I blame David Cameron - he isn't fit for the job!

  • Comment number 338.

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


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