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 757.

    All our politicians, of all colours, must rank amongst the weakest and most spineless across the entire globe. When are the interests of the people who have a legal right to be here actually going to be looked after?

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    An amnesty would be madness because it would then encourage more illegals to disappear in the system to wait for the inevitable 'next' amnesty years later when the government has lost control of the numbers again. You can't keep squeezing ever more people into a finite space.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    "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."

    Why not fine current government partys £10,000 for every illegal let in & for every immigrant over "propaganda quotas" as ultimately it is THEIR responsibility & FAILURES

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.


    Higher wages = more consumer spending = better economy


    Less jobs as employers that pay higher wages will employ less staff but expect a higher productivity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    "Simples as that
    at the same time lauding the merits of Scandinavia who have no such policies."

    Yes they do.

    Please also note that these countries are members of Schengen (as is Switzerland) whereas the UK is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    Rebecca Riot you are so typical of a lot of young middle class (whatever that means) women in the UK today.

    You actually do a good job of changing my mind. Maybe we should replace you with Eastern European women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    We can draw little confidence in repatriation of illegal immigrants after Harpers' evasive waffling on TV this morning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    "This nudges me a step closer to emigration."

    Oh the irony! But this is what the Politicians want as part of their hidden Globalisation agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    "Raven Mera
    My husband is an immigrant. ... he was refused, and had an enforced removal order signed agaisnt him."

    Then invoke the Human Rights Act: cite Article 8 the right to a family life. Convicted criminals successfully use that to avoid deportation, so why not you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    I studied in the UK from post-secondary to post graduate level - spent over 8 years in the UK. Each year cost me about 20000 pound. Currently my passport is with the UKBA since July 2012 as a result I can not work or travel anywhere. I paid 4500 pounds to extent my two residence permit. My question is how many in the UK with a family of 4 people can afford it? Migrants are treated unfairly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    I'm not anti migrants, because I've also worked elsewhere in the world.
    The difference is that I was present in those countries legally, doing work within the local employment regulations, and doing so by invitation.
    That is not the case with immigration free for all of recent years which will have serious repercussions for decades.
    And still it goes on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    They got rid of the idea of national identity cards but it would of made tracking down illegal immigrants easy for the UK boarder force and police
    but like any thing that would help solve this problem no one wants to do it and you get the people shouting about civil liberties and police state but as a result illegal immigrants can despairer in to the country with out trace


  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    The UKBA refuse entry to a Professor attending a conference on the grounds he may overstay yet can't account for those who are already here and have 'lost' others.
    An amnesty may 'wipe the slate clean' but there is no evidence they have a working system to restart with.
    A case of endemic system failure rather than millions of would be immigrants treading water off Beachy Head, waiting for a tide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    Have an amnesty and I'll guarantee you'll get a queue outside the benefits offices a mile long.

    Not being caught after 2 years does not entitle illegal immigrants to become legal.

    You can imagine what would happen if we applied the two year rule to criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    692.Trout Mask Replica

    You presume your beloved westminister actually produces realistic statistics regarding illegals, do you honestly believe the validity of the figures when its an open secret that we can only guess at the true scale of the problem. This is openly admitted by the Home office and you present your facts as Gospel.
    Agenda me thinks TMR, visited any think tanks lately?

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    UK immigration is far too focused on border controls. Many enter legally, but overstay, or work or claim benefits they are not entitled to. The ONLY way of tackling this issue is by in-country checks on passports/visas when accessing jobs, National Insurance numbers, healthcare, benefits, and housing - like every other country in the world. So far the authorites here refuse to grasp this nettle

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    702. DorisDay.
    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.

    Really? I'm pretty sure a desperate Afghani, whether legal or illegal, from a chaotic poverty stricken country like that or any other would probably disagree with the last part of that sentence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    @728.Bastiat - Re your final sentence - that's the most I've laughed all morning.


  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    This is nothing short of a national disgrace and that is all I will say on the matter!

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    for the imm's who have come here fairly & contributed to the country, i say fair enough, for those who shouldn't be here & have got lost,i say to ukba,get off yer lazy a@@ and do the job you are paid for i am sick to the back teeth of my taxes being wasted & govt orgs coming up with limp excuses every time something hits the fan,find them and send them home,not rocket science is it?


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