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 617.

    no wonder we're cutting the armed forces, no one will ever need to invade us, they just turn up and we let them in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.


    Thats no argument and you know it. Those things that you highlight are part of our infrastructure.

    Regulated housing. Well as soon as they apply the UKBA would know.

    Schools, the UKBA would know

    NHS, the UKBA would know

    What are you advocating.

    That all we should do away with our society and be beholden to the Liberalist ideals of yours. Like Marxism that won't happen.

  • Comment number 615.

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

  • Comment number 614.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    So what is the point of the UK Boarder agency if they can not do their jobs properly? If there are 300,000 people in the UK that should not be and nearly half of them should have been deported why are we paying anyone at the UK Boarder Agency anything. HGet rid of them all as clearly they do not work , give a dam or care based on these results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Like the short term politics that Cameron endorses this has a knock on effect. Cut border staff, Police, Youth Clubs, Social services and other Public services and you will see a negative effect. Usually in Crime increases (and its increase cost) and now in Illegal migration and the damage that creates. Short term politics is the thing that will some up Camerons last 3 years in Power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Sheeeesh!!! We have got a bunch of clowns running the country down the pan haven't we?
    All they need to do is send a few bods down the back alleys of our towns and cities (London would be a good starting point) banging on the sides of sheds and garages.
    That'll give them some idea how many there are. I'm glad it's only a suggestion at present and not a policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    The incompetence is astounding. Instead of worrying about their image, the UK Government politicians should do what we pay them to do, secure the borders and look after the interests of the residents. This Government is all talk then no action. Not a clue between the lot of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Im from Poland and came to UK almost eight years ago.
    I was offer the job because I do work very hard , im fast and reliable and NOT cos Im Polish or for any other reason.
    I know a lot of british people who dont bother to work , always moan and demand stuff for nothing.
    I work in factory and also as cleaner , dont think many of you would be interested in this kind of jobs so immigrants rule !

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    @603.PipeVVorm , you do realise that its Kieth Vas a Labour politican that is suggesting this amnesty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    It's always been Labour's way as they've done the most damage while in government.Tony Blair's warped politics of allowing as many lower skilled workers into Britain as possible so as to tip the electorate in their favour.These people always vote Labour. Thus, it's good for the Labour party but bad for the rest of British workers who are having to compete so hard at getting work. Shame on Labour

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

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

    And the attraction of places like Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, USA, Australia, Canada, even your much beloved Singapore, which all have higher net migration rates per capita than the UK is what exactly?


  • Comment number 605.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Christopher Caldwell's 'While Europe Slept' is one of the best and most insightful books I have read on the subject of immigration.... It moves the debate firmly away from the racist right wing and into the middle ground"

    The debate on immigration has ALWAYS been a middle ground subject. It was Labour who claimed it wa a racist right wing subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    A bit like the bankers, 'lets do nothing' and try and sweep the mess under the carpet. Not good enough Mr C. Do the job your paid to do for once. You said in your party political tout for the top you would stop immigration..........we're still waiting! or was that just another lie?

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    I am totally against any form of amnesty. Many people I know who have settled here had to go through a lenthy procedure to settle. Just because the BA is out of control and an administrative nightmare is no excuse for clearing the decks with a mass amnesty. Higher temp staff and start shipping them back now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    i say limit the amount allowed in to a manageable amount each year, yes it harsh but the economy is in the tank right now.
    and how do we support them when disabled people are being taken of benefits, does that sound fair to take the elderly of their pension and benefits and yet allow asylum seekers get pure dollar for gas and electric ive seen the letters, that to me is sick it should be basic

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    2 Minutes ago
    I wonder how we identify immigrants?

    Erm if they havent got the correct type of visa then they shouldnt be allowed in! Not allowed in then disappearing never to be seen again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    The way that the Tories are ruining this country just might stem the flow of immigrants, illegal or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    I there is the possibility of an amnesty, why continue with the Border Agency at all? Because it would appear that it was designed to fail, and to fail the British taxpayer who pays for it. But then what's new about that? It's the hopeless state of modern Britain.


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