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 377.

    @MrsPaul. why do you think all illegal immigrants are criminal? You should open your eyes out. They should assess every case and consider if the person can contribute to the country. I was once an illegal immigrant,but managed to go through and achieve a degree from a top uni. Now I am working for one of the largest non-profit organisation here, contributing tax and helping other. Am I a criminal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    So, there is a backlog.....hence there is the consideration for amnesty...
    Sounds like there is a reward for failure here.....we have seen that before...The London Olympics security, sure the government can step up the mark on this one and boost some real effort to get this it should be done. No amnesty, just get on with it and quick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    @ Unbelievable Tekkers

    In an area such as Leeds do staff ask every person they believe to be foreign whether they should receive free NHS care?!

    I just don't believe it.

    Since probably 50% or more who walk through the doors has some form of accent how would they know which person has been here for 50 years and is a British citizen and someone who has got ill whilst on holiday?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Congratulations to Mr Milliband upon his forthcoming election.

    If this goes ahead the Tories will make themselves every bit as un-electable as the Lib-Dums.

    I have said it before, the answer is simple - STOP squandering money on foreign aid and protect the borders and citizens of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    We can't afford to offer the amnesty. I'm not one of the 'ban immigration' crowd but this would be a come-on to thousands. On top of public service cuts, a small number of benefits cheats, a huge number of tax dodgers (including the super-rich and corporations like Starbucks, Apple and Boots) we truly have a Broken Britain. Breaking it more is NOT the answer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Good thing if those lefty-union-lovers keep trying to bankrupt employers !!

    (joke, joke).

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    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!
    Too right - My husband jumped through similar hoops as you to be able to come & live here with me

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    More proof of British ignorance and Daily Mail influence is that people are under the (false) impression that people arriving here from the EU have automatic access to our benefits system; they don't. Also, as legitimate migrants they pay tax and NI as well as in many cases being highly skilled and educated, filling in gaps where needed. So don't put EU migrants under the same umbrella!

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Easy - Bring our troops home from Afghanistan NOW before any more are killed and use some of them to help rid the country of this festering problem and defend our tiny island from the enemy within. I know this won't go down well with some people and I know that our young soldiers joined the army for something completely different but something has to be done urgently. We are on our knees already!

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    If there was an amnesty then hundreds of thousands of more immigrants would be heading to this already over populated country, enough is enough.
    We must employ people that is up to the job and not these bunch of cowboys who can do nothing more than make excuse after excuse for their complete and utter incompetence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Regardless of what racial, cultural or religious origins people have, their morality, how wealthy they are or what paper qualifications they may have, our most serious problem in the UK is overpopulation of our small islands. To be fair this is a problem in most of the rest of the world as well, but we will not solve this problem by pretending that we can continue to increase our own population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    And to those of you that missed C4's "Great British Property Scandel" the other night:

    This amnesty is a double-wammy to UK public. Take a look at what is happening at the UK's empty homes, particularly Hammersmith. Council homes to be demolished for new, luxury high rise appartments for sale to overseas investers. This situation is repugnant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    whats happened to free speach, surely if someone comes into this country or any country illeagally they have committed an criminal offence so lock them up until they have there status is sorted then they can be released to where they are allowed to be. THen we would not have this problem again

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    The law is the law and not when it suits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Good to see the Tory Press machine using the same terminology as in their failed projects: remember they told us how "robust" their methodologies were on the West Coast fiasco that ended up costing the tax payer £millions. Same with this fiasco. They are wasting money on having to do everything twice: incompetence beyond belief! Omnishambles galore by this useless govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    I thought the policys of Torys would be an improvement of Labour in regards to immigrantion. Clearly one of few reasons to vote for them is disappearing. Watch the Rise of UKIP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Typical shabby affairs as usuall. Probably just get away withit too, and the hard working tax payer will pick up the bill. What a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    never understand why UKBA don't check the passport when anyone left this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    312. Avalon

    Some even quicker. You'll be lucky to recover 50% of the foreign invoices... but then its public money you don't want to be throwing it at lost causes.

    Honestly the foreign debts are few and far between compared to the domestic ones. Unpaid prescriptions, private treatments, childcare fees, salary overpayments etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    Pity, but this is just more ammunition for those right wing agitators.
    What a screw eh?


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