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
    +3

    Comment number 517.

    remember the promises this govt gave pre and when elected. more lies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 516.

    504.Defn28

    Why do we 'need' talent from abroad??

    What is the problem with training people who are born here, there are so many jobless ppl in the country train them up to do these 'talented' jobs you describe.

    The money spent on training ppl in the short term would benefit compared to what is spent on immigrants!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 515.

    @479.John

    "..... Maybe then Euro leaders will wake up and realise that money does not grow on trees. PS the NF in France will happen Europe wide if they dont"

    Not only the NF, but the rapidly rising 'Generation Identitaire'. (Google it).

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 514.

    496.Rebecca Riot
    You really don't see the irony of that comment do you? On one hand you are complaining about a capitalist system which allows bankers to speculate and take risks and on the other hand you are supporting the same capitalist system by suggesting that immigrants be given an amnesty. Who do you think benefits the most from cheap labour? Shareholders and Bankers. Ironic isn't it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 513.

    The Immigration Minister lives in a parallel universe. In the one I inhabit, there are tens of thousands of former immigrants who have 'disappeared' into a black economy, which works with false names, papers; never pays taxes and is probably supporting further immigration breaches. The government's own resource planning process recognizes this fact, but is unable/unwilling to tackle. Discuss.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 512.

    This is the single influencing issue on why people want us out of the EU, and why there is a demand for a vote on Europe.

    I am fed up to the back teeth of having rubbish imposed on me from elsewhere while we pay the price in higher taxes and reduced services.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 511.

    Wake up.
    Immigration is consequence of bigger reality of unsustainable world population growth.
    Fact is, even if we were to 100% stop immigration into UK the continued massive rise in world population ensures increased demand & competition for limited world resources.
    UK aid is basically a slow bullet to the head as we create & increase our OWN competition for resources WE NEED to survive

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 510.

    The country is broke, public services stretched past breaking. If anything these services will further shrink (rightly so). How on earth does immigration fit with this necessity? Productive or not, there's no more room for anymore immigrants. Regardless of future demographic issues it will help in the long run if the natives had fewer kids too.

    Grow some balls, and stop being such a push-over.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 509.

    The inconvenient truth for the the Establishment is that in reality so-called 'conspiracy theorists' are just people who aren't sheeple

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 508.

    Disgusting!

    It'll only egg others on to get in here, go underground for a few years. Round them up as caught and ship them back.

    When UK became part of the EU I wrote to the French Polynesia Embassy stating my intent to live there as it was a French T.O.M and in the EU. They said "YOU'LL NEVER GET IN UNLESS YOU DEPOSIT THE FARE TO RETURN ON ARRIVAL. & You can't emigrate to the island.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 507.

    Another copout for the Government.
    They should be putting extensive plans into place to remove the illegals.
    Once again it is easier to ignore the problem than to deal with it.
    More incompotence from Cameron and his Cronies.

  • Comment number 506.

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

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 505.

    How do 320,000 people arrive in a country without proving there intentions ?

    In other countries you have demonstrate that you can support yourself financially, have a place to stay, ad intentions to leave at the end of your stay, ie a return ticket.

    The fact that there aren't even more people, proves the system can work but isn't in some cases. Maybe some people should lose their jobs.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 504.

    I am all for immigration done the proper way. We need talent from abroad and i would like to think that if i ever decided to emmigrate that i would be accepted in that country as it is in my own UK but the solution is simple. Invest in immigration staff now to save billions

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 503.

    Our soft lefty policies have created this mess, Im welcome to immigration but only if the individual has a skill that will benefit our society/economy. We have enough unskilled low lives of our own without taking the rest of the worlds too! UKIP have my vote every time. Lab and Con have had their chances and they blew it

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 502.

    I despair at our governments , they never ever listen to the people who voted them in office in fact they are merging into one party , how many times do we have to scream we do not want or need any more migrants close the door , sort out the mess then we can have a proper policy in place , i just give up if they have Another Amnesty .we have loads of Brits unemployed give em a job at the border .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 501.

    I know what I think, but then you would probably call me a xenophobe or a racist. What d'you think Lewis Jones?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 500.

    We've got 9,000 troops and associated support staff in Afghanistan today.
    Why?
    Why are we guarding the boarders of Pakistan & Afghanistan?
    We've got boarders at home to protect clearly.

    We just marched in there, we can march right out of there in a month, back home & defend our islands' shores. And we should, too many have died in nation building, which we were promised we wouldn't be doing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 499.

    436.Ron Nicholson

    In recent history, we have had two GREAT Prime Ministers..Sir Winston Churchill and Dame Margaret Thatcher. Love them or hate them, they had guts enough to make a decission and follow it through. The difference between them and David Cameron is that they made the RIGHT decissions.
    ---
    How well did the Dardennes campaign and monetarism work out then ?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 498.

    With so many illegal immigrants it must be possible to restrict their ability to stay hidden. They must rent places to live, so make tenant/lodger registration a legal requirement, with the 'tenant' required to produce passport/ or other ID to the Border Agency to qualify. Same for workers. Big fines for failure to do these checks. These illegals must be stopped from undermining British society.

 

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