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
    -2

    Comment number 637.

    Those immigrants who are in gainful employment and prepared to speak English (Welsh optional if in Wales!) are welcome to stay, I don't really care how they got here. The rest may seek their fortune elsewhere.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 636.

    619.righteous fury
    "I earn £115,000 a year and last year paid 50,600 in tax and NI"

    Then you're getting terrible tax advice.

    With no tax planning at all, the maximimum tax/NI you should have paid last year is c£45k.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 635.

    Ever since end of WWII we have been on a path of constant APPEASEMENT.
    Politicians call it "compromise".
    If terrorism was such a dangerous destructive threat as politicians so often remind us, then how come this issue even exists.
    Politicians pretend to protect our nations security,fabric & sustainability while knowingly doing the OPPOSITE.
    Its perverted politics, hence politicians =pervs

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 634.

    This is at least the third illegal migrant amnesty I can remember in recent years.

    -Provide details of the other 2! Incidentally the Government says they have no intention of an amnesty now either.

    So what you are really saying is I have heard in the media about amnesties that haven't happened but which sell news print to those who want to think that the UK is swamped with illegal's

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 633.

    I hope Auntie is prepared for a life in the private sector when it loses its fee because the part it has played in this none mandated social engineering program beggars belief.
    I will shed not one tear when they finally pay the piper, we could probably get more objectivity from Al Jazeera, who exactly do they represent as it is definately not the mainstream indiginous population.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 632.

    Why not do what the French do - once arrested driven straight to the airport and put on the next flight - NO redress to appeal except back in their own country - we are TOO SOFT and heads need to roll and someone with a backbone put in command - certainly NOT a politician or a civil cervant

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 631.

    Like Vaz cares.

    Crocodile tears.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 630.

    It is high time now the UK public came out in protest over immigration, for our own sakes.

    When immigration gets extreme, an amnesty is granted and Politicians cover up the true extent to the numbers and the effects on social services/benefits/jobs.

    I consider my normal views fairly central but this situation is pushing me further to the right. Socialism & Capital greed is creating hardship.

  • Comment number 629.

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

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 628.

    Immigration needs to cease and cease now. We have 70 million people in this country and resources are dwindling.

    We do not need to pull in so called "talent" from abroad. We have plenty of it here. We need to concentrate on improving our schools and universtities for our people to ensure that we do not need to bring in foreigners whilst having 3 million unemployed. It's madness!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 627.

    It's about time this was sorted out, if they can't do the job, get some one whom can, to much red tape, if they allow all of them to stay ,this goverment should be sacked, we cn not keep putting the uk in more of a mess, it's time to look after what we have, other country stops this we must get some balls and do the same

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 626.

    No amnesty, they should not be here. The UK is full, and there is a housing and jobs shortage.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 625.

    The BBC are there again - blaming the cleaner for not cleaning up the mess quick enough!

    You're making progress Mr. Harper. Well done. It's a big mess though eh?! You have my sympathy.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 624.

    Clearly this is a step too far. All it will do is push more people to parties such as the BNP and the far right. As someone has said, the cost of doubling the staff to process these immigrants would be much less than the cost of supporting them on benefits. I'm sure a lot would like to work, but there isn't the jobs so they're not all going to be able to.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 623.

    If this were a golden/boom time in the UK , then I might possibly agree with the Tories are up to, in regard to welfare and in my opinion seemingly turning a blind eye to illegal immigration. However, it is the exact opposite in the UK at the moment and nothing what the Tories are doing makes any sense to me and I think most other people , what so ever!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 622.

    Wasn't Cameron elected (sort of) based on reducing immigration? Is it really so much to see promises kept once in a while?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 621.

    Guess I shall be voting BNP at the next election.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 620.

    #588 JasonEssex

    "never has immigration been so high as nowadays"

    According to this Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_Kingdom_since_1922

    Immigration levels are % higher in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Austria & Belgium than the UK. We are about the same level as France, the Netherlands and Greece. Which seems OK to me.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 619.

    There's a common misconception about all immigrants running through these comments. My upbringing/education was paid for by another country. I certainly won't be retiring here and bothering with your NHS(!). I'm entitled to NO public funds. I earn £115,000 a year and last year paid 50,600 in tax and NI to a country I won't using for much longer.
    No need to thank me. You're very welcome.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 618.

    "Border Agency may hand 'amnesty' to migrants" - because that's going to get a massive "thumbs up" from the HYS cognoscenti!

    I saw a piece in the paper at the bacon sarnie shop saying that the backlog was the size of the population of Iceland. Couldn't we just swap? I've always liked the Icelanders, what with their sagas & success at "The World's Strongest Man" and all that. . .

 

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