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"

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    This voting list is adding positive votes to the negative scores BSB2007 at 09-56 09/11/2012.

    Try it to see it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Employ more immigration staff is the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    An amnesty for illegal immigrants is totally unacceptable.
    It's unfair on those who came here legally and it will encourage countless thousands of other people to sneak in in the knowledge that all they have to do is hide for a couple of years and then they will be allowed to stay. Hunt the illegals down and kick them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Amnesty for illegal immigrants ?

    No way José !

  • Comment number 393.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Our politicians have signed away our rights (& voters let them) & ability to determine our own future.
    Even if we wanted to create an improved sustainable future for our own population, we CANNOT due to EUR rules.

    Even if we try & create jobs for unemployed, over 60% go to immigrants.
    When Cameron says we are not paying EURO bailout hes LIEING as we take in EURO unemployed & maintain them

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.


    " why do you think all illegal immigrants are criminal? "

    Because to enter the country illegally is a criminal act?

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    illegals should be sent straight back as soon as they are found,not released to await for the appeal cause you know they will not show up,the money its wasting could fund more staff at the border agency,amnesty is just an invite to 1000's to come to the uk & we will house you give you money & put more tax on the people that were born here to pay for it,shut the gates before its to late!!!!

  • Comment number 389.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Our "posh boy" government lives a sheltered existence. I've just spent a week holidaying in their "Cotswold Set" territory. I didn't knowingly encounter any "foreigners" on my travels. They should be compelled to live in one of our inner-cities for a while where every house or flat is occupied by someone of non-British origin. No Range Rovers and green wellies to be seen there. Get real Cleggeron!

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    "The Economy needs immigrants."

    The economy needs immigrants ONLY when there is a labour shortage.
    There is no labour shortage, there is a labour glut - it's called massive unemployment and welfare dependence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    How about a different kind of amnesty?

    1. Give all illegal immigrants six months to either
    - turn themselves in and register with the agency, with a view to making their case in the future.
    - get out of the country.

    2. Anyone found unregistered after that risks a jail sentence of 20 years or more.

    You'd be surprised how quickly the problem would fix itself if we weren't so soft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    The way to sort this out is a national identity card which is required when you get a job, a car, a house, a phone, a bank acount, a plane ticket, a rail ticket, or apply to any government agency. It works well in other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I am appalled by this. I have no issues with legal migrants. But to just give up trying to enforce the law is disgusting. What next? amnesty on murderers and rapists and paedophiles, because the justice system is overworked?
    Cut polititicans money, stop ALL expense claims, until they can prove that they can provide a good service to the people of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    To those misguided optimists that believe 'more is better' for Border Agency staff, apparently you don't understand the base lack of productivity and incompetence of public service. So:
    1. Why has this happened in the first place?
    2. Look at Singapore, Belgium [I wasn't allowed utilities without proof of identity] and others for best practice
    Crapita is not going to sort it out either, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Under no circumstances should this be allowed to happen. What is wrong with our previous and current goverments? none of them seem to be able to get to grips with immigration. All politicians of the main parties seem more concerned with the rights of immigrants than the people who live here legally. Put money into recruiting more UKBA staff and hunt down the illegals and deport them

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Genuine serious suggestion
    As the government wants people to work beyond retirement -offer 6 or 12 month contracts to qualified retirees to address this backlog once and for all. The cost would be minimal compared to the payments/admin/legal costs of the current fiasco.
    Its their tax and contributions that you are squandering so I think they will be very motivated to sort this nonsense out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    If Mr Cameron's government take this stand, they can say goodbye to winning the next ellection. We do not pay for Mr Cameron to take the easy option. We pay him to do what is right. What next, an amnesty for car thieves and burglars? Perhaps an amnesty for tax dodgers?
    Do the right thing or get ready to move out of Number 10.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Theyve been clamping down on benefit claimants, finding any reason to reduce or stop payments while the cost of living continues to sky rocket, the reason why legit British people are being put through this hardship is not because of the need for austerity but because we cant cope with the influx of immigrants.Exit the EU, close our borders and then maybe we’ll have a chance at sorting this out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Unfortunately, this just proves how our hands are tied by allowing the EU to dictate how are borders are supposed to function.

    Get out of the EU, throw out the Geneva Convention (generally it's not the victims who use it to their benefit!) and then create our on human rights bill.

    Then we can mass deport in a fraction of the time. If those deported don't like it, they can apply properly.


Page 40 of 59


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.