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 737.

    This is utterly ridiculous! We are an ISLAND that you have to get on a plane or boat to get to - how do people without the right visas get past those posts? And the channel tunnel crossing - surely people arent just walking through it? There must be appropriate barriers to pass through there too? I really dont understand how it happens? Its not as if there are fences easy to jump?!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    When is this goverment going realise this country is at least 10 million people over populated.

  • Comment number 735.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    After going through many of these comments it seems that there is a misconception that most immigrants are illegal and that it's easy to get a visa, it's not. It is however easy to get a here and then disappear (students and aslym seekers anyone)! Genuine immigrants have to go through a lenghty and expensive process to stay here legally, don't tar them all with the same brush,

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    I will volunteer to help out. Needs sorting for everyone's sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    The task is impossible, because of false documents showing the immigrants are from another EU country.
    I overheard some people speaking Russian. I speak fluent Russian and enquired where they were from. They looked at me suspiciously and said from Poland. False docs provided cheaply allow all these foreigner pretend to be from another EU country making them legal immigrants. Impossible to remove.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    I see racist stereotype comments on here again from foreign job stealers.
    All immigrants should be given 'temporary leave to stay' & not be given British passports & those who dodge paying taxes, liars & commit other crrimes should be deported first.
    Govt makes immigration worse by subsidising immigrants by their quals, housing, education, NHS & by not training British workers.We're full up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.


    Agreed ! and so much for the fantasy, that the Tories know what they are doing and that we are all better off with them in charge of the country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    Thank God I'm returning to Australia soon; they have a good solid immigration policy. Oh, hang on, I can't return because they have refused to let my British wife of five years into the country. Damn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    In a free & dynamic economy/society, we'd welcome these people & labour. USA had almost unlimited immigration until 1921!

    "Give me ur huddled masses... ur poor... homeless... yearning to breathe free.. I Lift my lamp beside the golden door"
    ~Statue of Liberty

    Unfortunately our economy is suffocating under an insolvent public trough, & the gorging pigs are angry that more pigs are coming to feed

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    Thank you BBC for the top Editors' Pick. That's really all we need to know about the British Establishment's view on this...

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.


    And I am fed up with overhearing so many Eastern Europeans saying they're only here for the money -

    Whilst I can sympathise with you. Yesterday in my own Dorset Town 5 out of 6 people I passed were speaking a foreign language.

    How does it square with you that many U.K. people go to the tax havens of the Middle East to work only to make money to bring back to the U.K..

  • Comment number 725.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    This sort off article brings out all the rampant hand wringing awash with tears lefties. With them crying please let them stay they contribute nothing but take a lot. But we did pillage their land centries ago. BOO HOOOO get over it. They are illegals get rid of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    You'd have more success offering illegal migrants a couple of grand to hand themselves in for deportation LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Comment removed because it broke house rules.....did it heck! it was truthful and factual and didn't insult anyone. I take it the moderator is a conservative

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Granting an amnesty to immigrants is the logical result of the perverse Human Rights Act and a Legal Aid system which is designed to block natural justice.We also do not control our own borders.To the doubters,look at Abu Hamza,legal aid in excess of £1,000,000 and fourteen years to get rid of someone who should never have been here in the first place and wished to kill us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    You just couldn't make this rubbish up.
    It is quite a brilliant state of affairs. Absolutely astounding.
    What a bunch of idiots we have had running the shop. And these are meant to be the clever ones!
    A TV show like 'Australian border agency' makes me green with envy at how to control immigration.
    What a toilet Britain is becoming.
    This nudges me a step closer to emigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    This government has lost the plot! Does the PM must think were PLEBS?, Does he think the people of this country will keep him in office when he has done nothing but side track and flannel us with words and promises on Immigration, Overseas aid, The European union and the abuse of the human rights act !!!!! Mr. Pm Sort it or good bye.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    An amnesty to the 320,000 missing illegal immigrants is also an amnesty to the untold numbers of illegal immigrants who have also arrived here over the past 15 years or so living in the shadows.

    This is against a backdrop of housing crisis,high unemployment,over-stretched social services.

    We think our problems are bad now. Add these untold numbers to the equation and the UK will be in crisis


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