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 597.

    We export the jobs.
    We import people.
    Surprised at unemployment figures and the state of the economy? I don't think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Ur welcome here legally only, or not at all. Period.

    The idea that illegals can have benefits, or that their children born here are entitled to benefits is absurd. Citizenship should not be granted to "anchor babies". The idea that parents can use their children as a path to citizenship is grotesque & shouldn't be rewarded & encouraged.

    If u perform an illegal act, u shouldn't benefit from it

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    Illegal workers are taking menial jobs and are being exploited by the criminal non-tax paying, black economy. People smugglers can also smuggle drugs and guns. Canabis farms, illegal spirits, cockle pickers..

    Somehow we need to remove invisible workers, get more money in the exchequer so we can have a stronger UKBA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    If someone is prepared to break the Rules and Law to enter Britain its very unlikely that once they are here they will Abide by the Law!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    This is at least the third illegal migrant amnesty I can remember in recent years.
    Actually there has never been an across the board illegal immigrant amnesty legalisation for those who had been here over 15 Years has always occurred informally but was formalised by this Government in 2011.
    The rest is right wing media scaremongering

    Still why let facts interfere with a good rant

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    Christopher Caldwell's 'While Europe Slept' is one of the best and most insightful books I have read on the subject of immigration in recent times. It moves the debate firmly away from the racist right wing and into the middle ground highlightng among other things the destructive effect on social stability, liberal politics and workers rights that unchecked immigration will have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.


    The question you have to ask is why is there a lack of skills here?

    Maybe because we are in a climate of views like yours that we can just get the skills from abroad, it would take some time of course I didnt say it wouldnt.

    But the ppl that are skilled in these areas from our country are already being kept out of jobs by immigrants, I know ppl in this position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    We need to eject as many illegal immigrants as possible otherwise it encourages millions of others to head here especially bearing in mind our overly generous welfare,housing and legal rights ! The Dutch were the most liberal in Europeuntil they were overwhelmed by millions of economic migrants

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Granting amnesty will only encourage more illegal immigrants - after all if they lie low for a number of years then they'll "earn" the right to stay - and so it will continue until something gives!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Thats a very simplistic argument, never has immigration been so high as nowadays with high unemployment and strain public services. Our has never been so great. The majority of people have nothing against controlled immigration in good times but in bad times we simply cannot afford it. We need to look at ways our stabilising our population not ever increasing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    Can some one explain the UK asylum logic to me?
    1) I thought asylum seekers were supposed to go to the nearest save haven.
    2) They smuggle themselves onto lorries from Songate Refugee camp after living SAFE in France for years.
    3) If one border official stops one illegal immigrant, he’s probably saved the equiv of his annual wage. Why cut their jobs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    The UKBA is incompetent, under-staffed or not, and this needs to be sorted quickly so that our borders remain secure from now on. We shouldn't be in the position we have to give 300,000 (maybe many more?) an amnesty, but if we do have to, then let there be one basic rule: one offence and you're on the next plane out, full stop, whatever your origin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    How can a country like the size of ours keep taking imigrants when people who haved lived here all their lives cannot get houses to live in and are having money taken away from us by this government who keep telling us this country is going through a recesion,I just cannot see how we can afford to keep taking people from other countrys when we British people are being treated like we are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    Camereon should get a grip on this issue rather than sitting on a TV sofa allowing himself to be ambushed by a pathetic "D" list celebrity. The fabric of this country is falling apart through immigration and over population, while the government tinkers at the edges of left wing policies

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    It is nothing to do with race. It is to do with those who come here illegally, as opposed to those who come here (from whichever nation/race) legally.

    Understand? Lovely.

  • Comment number 582.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Clearly the answer is not to loosen the rules but clean up the UKBA. It is grossly mismanaged. I have lived legally+ productively for 12 years and made a straight forward application over 6 months ago, the only information UKBA will tell me is there is no upper time limit to complete it. In theory, they can hold my passport indefinitely. It is gross abuse of power. I have no avenue of recourse

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    I think they should wipe the slat clean. and crack down from now on otherwise the people who are illegillaly here or are over stayers from years back will be dealt with what about all the people coming in now. Start fresh and start hard. If you have applied and over stayed with out using any of our resources such as benefits then should be granted to stay. This is my belief. (I am a Uk Citizen)

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    504. Defn28
    14 Minutes ago

    Defn28 posted - 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.

    Skilled immigrants we need don't need to sneak in in an illegal way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    There are a lot of comments asking for the military to be employed to man the borders. Mr Cameron in his wisdom is making thousands of soldiers redundant so rather than recruit staff why not ask if any of them wish to be redeployed to the Border Agency. Not only will this save money but they have already had to swear alliegence to Queen and country. Then there is the small matter of retraining.


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