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 577.

    I wonder how we identify immigrants? How long will it be before anyone and everyone perceived to be 'immigrant' be it black/white/coffee coloured/able/disabled etc is blamed for all the UK woes?
    How long will it be before these people innocent or not will be attacked in the street?
    Our intolerance and ignorance will be our downfall

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    Every government has 2 main duties. Secure the borders and deliver the mail. If they can get that right the people will take care of the rest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    496.Rebecca Riot
    So, you're happy to DENY home grown students the casual work that used to help tide them over during term time and at Christmas? What this does is deny young people paid employment and encourages zero contracts and workfare. At the same, you're expecting their parents - or likely the taxpayer - to subsidize youth unemployment in favor of illegal immigrants? Enoch Powell anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    There seems little point to border controls at the mo - its not working - lets just have no control for the world - seems to be the policy at present...

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    What the Guardian readers don't seem to realise is that freedom of movement only really works if We ALL want to move. Most of us do not.

    When the country is full and land and housing prices are through the roof, they will all clear off and leave the mess for others to sort out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    She is a MBA and wants to teach at university in the uk.
    several weeks ago she became pregnant by me.
    David Cameron waffles about family,and parents taking up their responsibility to give their children the right upbrining,but he physically divides familys,from each other.
    I wrote to David Cameron in regard to this,his reply was to take it up with the UKBA

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    Another result of the fixation on staff numbers in Government Deptartments rather than the efficient delivery of a vital service. If the UKBA genuinly needs additional staff to deliver a vital mandate then so be it. If we (Gove and Taxpayers) aren't prepared to pay for this service sack the lot and open the borders to all and sundry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    We are heading for a triple dip recession,we have on average 20 people desperately chasing every job, we are giving away Billions to other countries in aid ( even if they don't want it - India) and yet we are still allowing people to come into the UK (legally or illegally ) this is insanity and just shows, that the Tories, are as most people have long known, an utter waste of space!

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Pretty much everyone in this country is an immigrant or a descendent of immigrants, if you go back far enough. So those who want ot stop immigration are simply saying that it was fine for them (or their anscestors) but should not be allowed for others.

    This seems a little unfair and frankly, unBritish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Don't you just love the sound of MPs taking pot-shots at the Border Agency?
    The tide of illegal immigrants is down to the ridiculous tangle of laws that MPs have erected covering immigration and "human rights". Nothing but a lawyers' paradise.

    We live on an island and we can't keep people out! So much for parliamentary democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    I have come to the conclusion that Cameron and his Cronies would struggle to achieve "Half Wit" status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    They aren't Giving Amnesty, they're Giving Up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    so much for the tories claims of reducing immigrants not only have they allowed the numbers to spiral out of control but now so they can ensure their rish mates can employ them at below minimum wages levels they are going to allow them all to become legaly resident

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    Those in so called control please LISTEN. Why is there a strain on the NHS? Why is unemployment high? Why are taxpayers having to contribute so much to the welfare state system? How much of the above affects the people who make the decisions? Not a lot. It is sad of course for those who have gone through the system in the proper manner, so commiserations to those. Send illegals home

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    No migrants should be allowed unless they earn over 40K a year. They should only be allowed to stay as long as they earn over 40K a year (per migrant).

    Why 40K?

    Well the government spends 11K per year on average per person.

    The tax on 40K is 11K a year.

  • Comment number 562.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    We DO factually have the resources & means to control our island borders.
    Why do politicians bang on about border agency staff shortage numbers.
    We have 2nd government agency, they were good enough to use for the Olympics.
    UK armed forces are our MAIN border protection, why pay & let thousands of them get bored doing nothing waiting 12 months for Afgan tour when we NEED their help at UK borders

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Any kind of amnesty is an admission of total failure to do ones job and sends the wrong signals to those planning to emigrate here illegally.
    There must be a full inquiry and the UKBA must be reshaped with new investment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    I can't imagine this topic being open long.

    My opinion? It would be a disaster to have any sort of amnesty. We would be inundated with illegals expecting another amnesty to come along.

    We have millions of unemployed. Use some to root out the illegals and have them removed. Perhaps that will help ease the housing, jobs and coming food and water shortages. If the EU gets in the way - leave it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    @488. The Teaparty
    Do they not use our welfare state's:
    Public transport?
    Public safety (provided by public law & order)?
    Regulated housing?
    Schools for their children?
    NHS for their children?
    Stay hidden long enough & seek amnesty under some EU or UN agreement?
    Have/use children as a path to citizenship?

    The "entitlements culture" of the UK is a huge motive for economic immigrants.


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