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 777.

    I fear and can see it happening, UK becoming as criminal as these poorer countries, rouge organisations entering, turning our communities into, drug ridden prostertute dens. prisons overfull with immigrants, NHS collapsing, hatred upon the population growing, what has happened to our green and pleasent land?? Cameron needs to be strong, he got my vote once, UKIP may get the vote next time.

  • Comment number 776.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    They can't be serious! I've waded through mountains of bureaucracy, made huge dents in my savings account and gained more than a few grey hairs to gain my legal immigration status here. And now they're just going to give a free pass to anyone who's stuck around long enough and kept a low profile because they can't be bothered to decently staff the border agency... well that's just great.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    Put more resources, in terms of numbers and training of staff, into the Border Agency and uphold the Government's policy of reducing immigrants to 10s of 1000s. Allowing them to stay will just act as a magnet for more. Referendum on the EU must ensure that one of the key issues we can vote on is to stop all EU people coming here. unless they meet job etc criteria and have no criminal record.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    609. Norbert Thats good that you came here legally and work and pay taxes, but you are not mentioning those who come here illegally, claim welfare illegally, commit crime and drain the taxes you pay. We need limited immigration and caps now not 4 years down the line when Camermoron promises false pledges on Immigration and Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    As a child of Immigrants that followed the legal procedure (back in the 70's when things were more stringent) I feel this is a slap in the face to all those that sdought to settle and contribute to this nation. Why should those who have made a mockery of the system be allowed to get away with it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    Hey People
    Why you guys think that every single immigrant staying here illegally is feeding in benefits,claiming money that they are not entitled to.
    I have know some people speaking better english and much cleverer and/or more helpful and beneficial to UK government than some European citizens.Do you people ever thought about EU citizens claiming millions of benefits etc..??

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    We need better protection of our borders in the first instance and a streamlined system, so that illegals can be detained and removed swiftly. Applications from asylum seekers must be speeded through the system and loopholes which allow prevarication and delay must be removed by legislation if necessary. No problem with those who come here honestly, work hard and are prepared to integrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    "TOUGH TO LIVE LEGALLY", as I was working and new to UK, I found very tough, because after tax, paying home office a huge amount(30%annual earnings), without claiming any benefits and waiting for 6 months to get renewed. Daily I am seeing people, teasing me while i go to office or coming back. UK is NOT interested in Working Immigrants. THere is NO privilage for WORKING IMMIGRANTS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    If all immigrants were required to keep themselves like British workers have to do so overseas & pay for health care etc - the immigrant numbers would drop & immigration would not be an issue. While govt dangles massive UK subsidies to immigrants eg NHS, benefits, soft tax system (I know of foreigners who pay no UK tax at all) - the problem will get worse.
    Simples - make immigrants pay for stuff

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Looking up previously suspended Keith Vaz on Wikipedia is like falling through the looking glass..

    The way people are ranting on here you'd think the immigration minister Harper had granted an amnesty. Whereas the fact is, he is absolutely not granting amnesty to illegals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    It doesn’t take a genius to understand that if you reduce the numbers of border agency staff it takes them longer to do their job; sooner or later they will not have enough staff to do the job at all.

    Well done Cameron, you have opened up our borders to all who want to come.

    Perhaps he should trade his new App for a calculator so he can work out the consequences of his actions for himself

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    The gov't will not give you the figures but the death and trauma caused by these criminals in this country is higher than the conflicts overseas.
    Bring our heros back home to protect our borders.
    The goalkeeper is in the wrong penalty area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    There's the only advantage of Portugal's current economic mess: very few non-Portuguese speaking foreigners will want to immigrate to Portugal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    Perhaps HMG could RE-employ the 1,200 Border staff made redundant by this govt ? Just a thought. This sort of story is only going to make people vote UKIP - and rightly so. We are becoming the sick-man of Europe AGAIN - but this time not because of over-powerful Unions, but millions of undesirables arriving here SAFE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT ONCE THROUGH THE PASSPORT PATROL, THEY ARE FREE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    Think this news story has convinced another bunch of people to vote UKIP

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    Hi. after having been through the process three times, I would ask an ordinary citizen to have a look at the case worker guidance on the UKBAs website and compare than to the immigration rules on the same website and try t make sense of it. This is what the case workers have to do. To much discretion is left upon the case workers, without precise and upto date guidance and hence this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    Offering amnesty will only encourage others to come here illegally especially as we have done this before, and such people will expect that we will do it again. However, if we do offer amnesty, more staff must be employed, firstly to ensure that those given amnesty are not criminals and to process applications in the future in an effort to stop a back log again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    @692.Trout Mask Replica
    Someone asked me this exact question which I answered @558.

    It's just my feelings/thoughts though... but what do you think?

    U seem to be criticising me a lot, what do u think is the best way to solve this issue?

    @740. Steve
    Cheers (Oink!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    It has been decreed that mass immigration and a cultural change of the population must take place, to this public broadcasters and all Govnt agencies and the law have been evolved to accommodate. descent is neither welcome or tolerated and will be more and more forbidden even the slightest infringement will become labelled racist. where it will lead us to is unknown. I hope it works.


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