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 697.

    A tourist tax, say £25 per day in advance, would solve the problem. Anybody overstaying the period paid for would be guilty of tax evasion and could be deported as a criminal. It would also swell the Government’s coffers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    644.Rebecca Riot
    'It is going on all around you, & friendly person who serves your lunch is doing the hard work that Brits wont'

    So you are advocating very low paid cash in hand work for illegal immigrants ? And the reason is because 'Brits won't'

    Are you sure you're not really one of those out & out greedy capitalist lot because you sure are writing like one ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    This government has lost the plot! Mark Harper evaded all the questions put to him on this morning’s news BBC1. The government will go into melt down if it does not put into force what it promised when it won the election, Immigration being top of the list!. They have got to give the UKBA the manpower and money to sort this mess out along with a fast track system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    The righteous little islander, pull up the drawbridge mentality is hot off the breakfast stove this morning.

    Must be those late risers idling the day away again?

    Enoch eat your heart out! Angry bigotry come in all shapes and disguises

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    What is the thinking behind possibly giving amnesty to , say someone who has no skills ,who can barely speak english and has entered the country Illegally? The country is in meltdown, there are no jobs even for those who are born and bred here ( Christ there are even Uni graduates on the dole) This is just Tory nonsense and I suspect people have had just about enough of this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    The idea that illegals can have benefits"

    By definition, illegals do not have access to benefits. If they are employed, the employers are also breaking the law for both that AND not having robust checks on eligibility to work. But I guess that's the unfettered free market at work and you'd argue against such regulation increasing the costs to business. You can't have it both ways!

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    My husband is an immigrant. He came into the uk legaly, paid his taxes, hsa insurance number, everything proper. Now, after 10 months waiting for a renovation of his student visa, he was refused, and had an enforced removal order signed agaisnt him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    I am an Englishman married 'in England' to a Ukrainian Doctor , it disgusts me that many non law abiding foreigners are likely to be given an amnesty. My wife was refused an extension of leave to remain in the UK after our legal marriage in King's Lynn and She has been refused a visa to visit my Daughter on two occasions , although after much cost and effort the decisions were overturned

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    This is putting two finger up at those of us who paid thousands and went through six years of hell to go through the proper process. It is not an amnesty, it is simply not being bothered to do the job properly in the first place. No visa, no stay, get out or do it properly. As for the UKBA, stop moaning and do your jobs or get someone in do do it for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    To all those stating that immigrants work harder therefore should be allowed to stay; this is a self defeating system.

    Because they are prepared to work for low wages there is no incentives for companies to pay higher wages. Deport illegals, clampdown on future immigration and firms will have to start offering higher wages to entice workers.

    Higher wages = more consumer spending = better economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    The way our country is heading and the lack of representation we have in Westminister it is starting to make a military coup look quite appealing.
    Come on MOD act now before DC has your kit reduced to bin lids and pea shooters just in case.
    ConDemLab policies on immigration amount to treason over the last 2 decades and they should be held to account.

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    Hah hah.......... just in time for christmas............... just be carful from whom you buy your trees from.................. remember theres ash die back ... oops just posted in the wrong thread.......... or have I............

    ps drink more tea

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    @ 655 Plant_ Smith

    It shouldn't be...

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    @616. The Teaparty
    I'm sorry, but I feel yes:
    Our Welfare state is available to children born here of illegals. As the parent of an "anchor baby", the parent (previously considered illegal), now has a path to citizenship & the welfare goodies that entails.
    Often, illegals live in, cramped former DSS housing, now owned privately & run by unscrupulous people. But that building was paid for by u.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Watched the performance of Mark Harper whilst having my breakfast this morning - He made the whole issue appear impossibly complex (when it’s more like a significant challenge, just made a bit harder with fewer resources available) Nonetheless MP arrogant and evasive – Some genuine leadership and candour, including straight answers to simple questions would make a refreshing change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    Not enough Housing.
    Not enough jobs.
    Water shortages.
    dwindling resources.

    Yet we let in more Immigrants, why?

    Gives companies cheap labour.
    Helps keep wages down.
    Saves companies having to pay to train people.
    Let’s the middle/upper classes have cheap cleaners/child minders/builders/gardeners etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    The simple facts are that we need to build a city the size of Leeds just to cater for our 'normal' immigration led population increase let alone granting illegals right to stay. Man, what a god almighty mess Labour has left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    The UK needs more immigrants, not less, if it wants to maintain the high levels of health and welfare it provides for its people.

  • Comment number 679.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    644.Rebecca Riot

    Where do you get this idea that they do the jobs the British wont? Yes of course there are some ppl who are lazy and dont work, but do u really think we are the only country who has these types?

    For every one lazy brit there will be 2 hard working, with the amount of ppl losing jobs do u really think these ppl wont work in a shop to pay their mortgage?!


Page 25 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.