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 677.

    NO NO NO, increase the border staff, many times over if necessary, we can then get rid of the illegals and create jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    Apart from the whole amnesty issue i'm appalled at the lack of stucture and control in this department. Surely if you needed to find out if someone had been granted leave to remain then the first thing you would do is to contact the department (or department branch) which grants leave to remain.

    In reality this info should all be linked together; however this department is an utter shambles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    Some 100 years ago my own Grandfather came to the UK as a child on his own fleeing religious persecution in Europe,his parents had been killed in a anti Jewish riot.

    He was what many on the right might now describe as an illegal immigrant.

    The UK welcomed Him.

    He went on to serve with distinction in the British Army in Two World Wars .

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    This is not the UK Border Agecies fault.

    They are deliberately understaffed and are having to deal with overwhelming numbers.

    This fault lays squarly at the feet of our WEALTHY stinking Politicians of all political colours who are pro-immigration no matter what lies they tell us to the contrary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    1 static caravan=4 immigrants =£50-100 per person per week= £200-400 per week.
    The poor farmers who employ these people (some having 20 or more statics =£4000+ per week) are earning more from renting statics than the crops on the fields, is it any wonder that they will harbor these criminals and then plead innocence and poverty to escape conviction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    The way to deal with a problem is not to give up, but to increase your efforts. If the government is genuinely saying that the only way to deal with this problem is to give in then we need a re-election asap, as the government is clearly not capable of doing it's job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    The logic of an amnesty is flawed, anyone who wishes to enter Britain and disappear is probably someone we do not want here.
    If its our own incompetence the solution is not to say one mistake (granting amnesty) cures another.
    If the tories do this (no hiding behind liberals saying it wasn't us) they will never be elected again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    Immigration is complex with no simple solutions. Bosses like it for cheap labour. Judges like to make "liberal" policy using Human Rights. Governments say they don't like it to win votes it. Governments are made up of judges and bosses. Don't expect clarity or leadership. Politicians are the authors of this mess. Our courts undermine clear prompt enforceable decisions, and drain the public purse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    Why not extend the amnesty to all criminals? Would save a fortune in policing.

  • Comment number 668.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    As always, this type of article attracts the same kind of rampant xenophobes. I can almost picture you, blood-injected eyes burning with anger, mouth uncontrollably frothing at the sides, fingers clenched in a claw-like gesture, furiously hammering at the keyboard… and then looking somehow baffled when the moderators remove your incoherent rantings…

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    #629 moggy

    Surely Enoch Powell was FAR RIGHT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    @636.AndyC555, under PAYE 50K on a 115K salary is probably about right, 0 on first 8K, next 29K 20%, and 40% on the remainder, with about 12% NI, it works out at about 50K in taxes. The only way to be tax efficent is to be self employed/contracted which is what most senior CEO's do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    Absolutely no way. If a person is not entitled to be in this country they should be removed immediately. Stop ALL aid and trade with any country that refuses to take back their nationals. We have far too many immigrants in the country as it is without taking this route. Public Opinion says get them out. Scrap the Human Rights Act then there will be nothing to stop deportation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    Wonderful news as an illegal immigrant with a criminal mind I now know that soon I will be able to roam about the country withouth having to constantly hide my true identity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    Amnesty, now thta really sends the right message to anyone who wants to come here illegally. It also sends the message to our home grown spongers that it's OK, we will get some illegals in to do the work you don't want, just sit back, relax and live off the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    This is an issue that always provokes irrattional responses. Currently the system is flawed and the HR Act makes it open to abuse. Many immigrants who are here illegally are delibrately having children to use as an excuse to stay. The asylum laws and regulations for unskilled workers needs to be tightened as that is how most of the 'illegals' got here in the 1st place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    I am totally opposed to an amnesty of any kind. Would those of you who agree with this support an amnesty for burglars or car thieves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    Talent from abroad is welcomed only when following the correct process. We have people who have followed the correct process and contribute to the rebuilding of Britain but you want to think about giving amnesty to those here illegally, I think NOT! Get the house in order and invest in the UKBA for the short term to save in the long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    "West of Eden
    Bastiat - well said

    The trouble with socialism is that you soon run out of other peoples money."

    Careful. Bastiat's definition of "socialism" is so all encompassing that it probably includes you. It certainly includes the vast majority of the UK Tory party and any European centre-right party. In his view the ancient Sumerians were socialists for raising taxes to fund irrigation.


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