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 537.


    It must suck to be you. "taken over"? "Hardly any white people"? As for the "anywhere safe left?" The only unsafe area in the UK is in your head.
    Deep south of Missisippi sound appealing for you?

    You are exactly why Economics (just like math/english) should be compulsory for all students in the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    Yeah why not, then when they start coming forward run them against the Police DNA database etc and if any of them that turn up to be Dodgy and or aern't employed then simply deport them while you have the chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    I thought only the goverment through laws can grant amnesty to these people and not just the uk border, seems to a deflection of blame is being shown here, who runs the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    So this will mean a whole country the size of iceland will be able to claim benifits ,will be able to use the NHS ,register with a GP have ,access to schools and all social amenitys, go on the housing waiting list
    Thses immigants have not paid any NATIONAL INSURANCE or INCOME TAX
    what a country the UK has become it's no wonder more and more people are emigrating,This country is a JOKE

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    I wonder how many illegal immigrants are here who came on a holiday or work visa and just never went home. We have enough problems funding the indiginous population and those who have come to our shores legally without having to dig even deeper to pay for illegal immigrants.

    Britian is seen as a soft touch, they have not been invited and we do not require them to stay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    What you going to do Cameron, Do something you wanted the power, use it!!! If your weak and ponder it and eventually give in, please shut the door on your way out, as this is a Joke!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    This is just the shape of things to come. Mass immigration is a given, particularly with a 2 child policy, low wages and rising costs.

    Soon this country will only be desirable for those who are coming from the poorest countries, because to them, it will still look good.

    Meanwhile, 1000's of working Brits and graduates are desperately looking for a way out.

    WTG Tories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Having read through some of the posts I am truly shocked at the number of thinly veiled racists attitudes on here. It seems that some people are advocating a Gestapo style police force where people are abducted from the streets never to be seen again. By all means discuss the topic, but do it properly please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    Rebecca Rot
    After all they(immigrants) do most of the hard work that keeps the country going. A quick glance around at the coffee shops, vending stalls and restaurants in central London is confirmation enough"

    I cant help feeling its not the coffee shops and restaurants that keep the country going. I am sure though that life would be oh so awful without them. How the other half lives !

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    I want soldiers on out borders more than I want soldiers in Afghanistan. I'd actually feel like they were defending me from a real threat then (ie, the threat of people illegally entering this country).

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    Fair but firm. The UK should be a haven for those in danger (Malala Yousufzai and her family). An attractive proposition for those who have skills we need and who are prepared to go through the correct process. We should not be tolerating the abuse of the NHS by foreign nationals, exploitation of our civil rights budget by terrorists and we must have the right to deport undesireables and illegals

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Funny how Vaz never brought any of this up when his lot were in power & it was allot worse as with many of the issues he brings up now which just goes to show it's completely political and part of the labour slur & smear campaign to hide the fact they have no new ideas or policies

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    There are people on here critising immigration and immigrants!
    On a BBC website!!
    (The Savile case must have taught our betters that it might be getting a bit dodgy to control public debate.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    Yes! We should extend the amnesty to immigrants in prison! Cut front line police and border staff to the bone! Just think of all the wonderful new entrepreneurs this will bring onto our streets. They'll be doing their bit to regenerate Britain in organized crime, child exploitation, sex slavery, money laundering and drug dealing. Take your medicine, plebs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Complex. If you're here illegally you are either known (because you are trying to stay legally or in the process of being repatriated) or unknown because you're doing neither of those things.

    If you're unknown, you can't legitimately work, claim benefits or housing, so how do you survive? Someone legally living here employs you, that's how.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    How many more failing Departments of State do we have to put up with? The monkeys at MAFF, declared by Blair as 'failing' got re-housed in DEFRA and still seem to be there, still paid and still failing.
    Last night a major charity indicated 1 in 4 children may be being abused and now 300,000 people here that should not be here.

    No amnesty - if you are on the public payroll then perform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    Well said Will_87 @ comment 503

    No need to add to your comment. UKIP get my vote too

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    I think the real problen is with the high ranking politicians in charge, their is no real incentive for them to deal with the problem, sure they have good soundbites and spin but thats needed to keep them in thier well paid jobs.
    Most are Rich never use public transport or the NHS the nearest they will get to an immigrant is probably when they are served drinks at their London clubs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    No amnesty. Better the removal of any regulations or laws that slow up the deportation process. If they are here without a passport then they should be removed immediately to their port of embarkation, to the custody of the United Nations or the European Commission. Let them feed and clothe them. A total ban on non educational immigration should be introduced now until the backlog is dealt with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    A recent case known to me : illegal Vietnamese couple who paid smugglers £15,000 to get here. They have been refused asylum, but are still here and there are no moves to deport them. They now have a child. How much have they already cost ? - certainly thousands for hospital birth, GP appointments, health visitor follow up with interpreters required as they have virtually no english. Madness.


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