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 557.

    We need to send out the message that the streets of Britain are not paved with gold.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 556.

    516.bored23

    A terribly over-simplified view proving that you obviously know nothing about A) The labour market in the UK and B) Economics.

    Go to the masses in the UK and find the Doctors, Surgeons, Entrepreneurs and Engineers - Do you seriously believe it is simply a case of 'training' them?

    We only seek talent abroad due to the lack of it here

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 555.

    "503.Will_87
    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"

    => No. This is a botch up. It lets UK firms who SHOULD.be training and apprenticing people off the hook, lets them fail in their duty to the community.

  • Comment number 554.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 553.

    UKIP are looking more interesting all the time, Let's wake up before we become a minority in our own Country - we are already a minority in some of our own Cities. As a Pensioner, I object strongly to paying for illegal immigrants handouts when I get a fraction of that even though I have worked all my life.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 552.

    Immigration is the biggest long term challenge to stability and prosperity in the UK. Yet it is practically ignored by filibustering MPs who fear that in addressing the issue they will be accused of racism. But it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with resources, integration and the economy all of which suffer when you abandon this important debate wholesale to the far right.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 551.

    There should be no amnesty for illegal immigrants. At the moment the state via us taxpayers is not supporting them. Otherwise they would be identified as illegals and deported. If amnesty is granted then there would be a lowering of benefits for our own people or an increase in taxes. Neither would be popular. Also the jobless figures would go through the roof. The govt would definitely be ousted.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 550.

    Immigration to the UK appears to be totally out of control....the problems caused by this are only going to get worse unless we take border control seriously....perhaps the money we waste fighting in Afghanistan could be better spent on border control?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 549.

    Violet Mildred

    Immigrants undermine British Society?? You must be joking

    The Tory party is doing their very best to undermine British Society and as we have clearly seen over the last four years

    It is the friendly immigrants that do all of the hard work that the noble Brits wont.

    Just look around at the coffee shops, restaurants and outlets in central London for confirmation of that.

  • Comment number 548.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 547.

    "farkyss
    Personally I'm waiting for Spain's economy to collapse and their property prices to do likewise, then I'm outta this hole - I heartily reccommend everyone thinks likewise."

    Your ability to do this depends, of course, on the UK's membership of the EU. Your ability to stay once there depends on the UK's continued membership of the EU.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 546.

    Maybe if we stopped getting involved in wars that don't concern us we would have enough money for UKBC, NHS, education, etc.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 545.

    This is just out of control! Over 300,00. For goodness sake we'll be falling off the sides of the island before long. 'The inn is full' give us a bit of time to process the numbers we have! They're literally just pouring in. We should have a point scoring system like Australia & Canada, If you dont have anything to offer their economy they'd send you packing, but not us oh no!

  • Comment number 544.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 543.

    The country requires Stringent border controls allowing only well educated / highly skilled individuals through who will in turn benefit the United Kingdom.
    What needs to be addressed is why illegal immigrants come to the UK???? - They view the UK as soft, realising we will give them everything they need and more as the government are afraid to stand up to the liberal human rights brigade.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 542.

    This country's Government are a Total Disgrace, but then again so was the previous Governments,
    The border Agency's and Police have just been Stabbed in the back once again!!
    when are people going to wake up and see, the Government is in the pockets of Bankers,Corporations, Criminal Gangs and dont give a monkeys about the Citizens
    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 541.

    All this idea gives groundwork and foundations for support to the |BNP and such parties. An amnesty like many said will only mean they will become common in the future due to ever increasing number desperate to come here due to the hopes that this country will give them the free money that dole gives to stay.

    The country is at maximum capacity no more too much strain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 540.

    Im british born and registered dissabled,with no family to care for me.
    My wife has been waiting since april of this year for a decision on her right under article 8 of the eu charter of human rights,to which the uk is a signatory.
    She has been refused 1st under the eea family permit because im not working,which imo is discriminatory because i cant work.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 539.

    Is it not time to put a stop to immigrants coming to Britain. This would allow the current backlog to be sorted out.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 538.

    The vast majority of people know what they want.Stop immigration and bring in as much voluntary repatriation as possible.Will they get what they want? Don't hold your breath. We are ruled by upper class chattering luvvies of successive Labour and Tory politicians who want to change the world at others expense.They are not subject to the bad schools and overburdened NHS the rest of us suffer

 

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