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 717.

    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 thinking is that the system has collapsed through gross incompentence.
    These people can no longer be located.
    So reset and start again.
    One small example of brainless cuts to vital public sector services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    How many Border Staff, would the £280,000,000 a year, we give India, pay for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    The Border Agency needs to be moved from London/Croydon. It can't get the staff and there's huge turnover. it should be moved to Birmingham, Manchester or one of the big cities where staff are available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    665. Avalon

    If you are on £115K you do not pay 0% on the first £8K but 20% and the very least you should do is put £15K a year into a pension fund so you do not lose the tapering personal allowance. Anyone on a salary between £100K and about £120K should be using all the pension contribution, salary sacrifice and other means of avoiding that roughly 60% marginal rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    #698 Alba Al

    "Too many chiefs not enough Indians in this country"

    So are you sayinig we need more Indians?


  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    Now is the time to bring in National "Border Agency" Service, trained properly operated properly, it would get the lazy brits as you call them off their bums, and illegal immigration would slow up ,hopefully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    "609. Norbert
    Im from Poland and came to UK almost eight years ago.
    I know a lot of british people who dont bother to work , always moan and demand stuff for nothing."

    It's not always perfect Norbert:

    A friend of mine employed all Polish staff on hourly pay.
    They worked as slowly as possible to maximise their pay for doing specified work.

    He went bust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    'close an archive of unresolved cases of people officials had lost contact with.' What exactly have they been doing? Wasting tax payers money. They are paid to do a job which is to ensure immigration is properly regulated and our borders are secure. Australia is an example the government should adopt. If you cannot offer society anything then refuse them immigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    Usual pro immigration / pro Euro brigade out in force.

    Globalists. Fascist masquerading as liberals.

    Happy to see other people doing part time minimum wage jobs in an over crowded country while at the same time lauding the merits of Scandinavia who have no such policies. While their daddies give them handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    I don't think a massive amnesty would go down at all well politically. Better to boost border agency resources and find and process these people quickly. Will save money in the end, beacuse we'll either ship them back home or give them permission to stay and they can get proper jobs and start to pay taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    How many fish can you put in a fishbowl
    How many sheep can be sustained by a field
    How many passengers are safely carried in 4 person car
    How many badgers are too many

    Apparantly, we know the answers to so many questions but the ONE question that is avoided is how big does a population bubble need to be before nature bursts it & causes the WORST population crash & suffering in known history

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    I listened to Mr Harper this morning on the News, he could not answer a staight question, apart from blaming the last Government for all the present problems, this Coalition has been in power for over 2 years, surely they should have got a grip on the situation by now, I believe we will never now the true extent of the levels of Immigration, get a grip Mr Harper, instead of blaming eveyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    How stupid to hint at an amnesty, every would be immigrant is now going to try desperately to get into the UK as soon as they can. It is beyond belief that we are going to allow this many people to just stay, when our country is already overpopulated, and as for the figure of 320,000 its more likely closer to 2 million illegals

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    what's the stupidest thing the conservatives ever did and probably the only usefull thing Labour were going to do? Its called ID cards and maybe that Ugandan lot who nicked 4million and counting, would not have got away with it, along with all the others doing ANYTHING to stay in this immigrants paradise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.


    As usual you pick one particular case and argue it as exceptional. I also made no mention of Cyprus, France, Greece. You did not explain with USA, Luxembourg, Singapore, Canada, Spain, Italy etc have higher net migration rates than the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    And I am fed up with overhearing so many Eastern Europeans saying they're only here for the money - either come here to embrace our country and what we stand for and live by our rules or live in your own country where the cost of living is cheaper and more affordable for you. Brits with money move abroad because they are buying into the culture and take money with them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    149 staff is a joke. However, I think it's important to note that as high as the 320000 figure seems, it only works out to about 0.5% of the total UK population (even if it is an underestimate). Yes we should be more in control of it and yes we should be stopping actual criminals but i think the most shocking thing in the article is the lack of resources at the UKBA to deal with these issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    "controlled archives" - piles of unresolved applications made by individuals with whom officials are no longer in touch.

    How then are officials going to somehow be "in touch" with them again? Befriend them on facebook?
    That whole "no longer in touch" thing does rather imply that they've got amnesty already. They might as well chuck the files into the recycling. . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    680. Some Lingering Fog
    1 Minute Ago
    "The UK needs more immigrants, not less, if it wants to maintain the high levels of health and welfare it provides for its people"

    Is my sarcasm radar failing me this morning, or are you for real?

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    An amnesty was already given a few years ago to allow the borders agency to get on top of the problem. Now it is out of hand again. Total incompetence from the top, no matter who is in power. Mark Harper could not give a direct answer this morning to what was a simple question. Too many chiefs not enough Indians in this country. Get the Borders agency more front line staff, sack the managers.


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