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 997.

    964.Lord Elpus
    Any one got a fancy derogatory term for someone who has a pathological hatred of one’s fellow citizens that are happy to see their own country ground into the dust by sheer weight of numbers, for the sake of political correctness?



  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    If someone has a 'right' to be in UK they are by definition not illegal - but what our population is not told is ; what EXACTLY are the EU rules on immigra. into the UK; does a Pole have a right to "WORK' here or a right to 'LOOK for work' (and if so, how long); because there are thousands of people who come here, work for 3 months, lose their job but stay - LEGAL imm. is just as bad a problem!

  • Comment number 995.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    Our economic migrant friends keep reminding us that they fill the jobs British people don't want to do. This is totally false. If we didn't have an infulx of cheap labour from the EU, employers would have no choice but to pay a proper wage, then people would want to take those jobs. Don't kid yourselves into thinking you're better suited to the job, you are only better suited to the employer.

  • Comment number 993.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Simple solution to the problem - deport everyone who should not be here in this country . The only reason they are allowed to stay is to keep wages down at the bottom end of the pay scales . Most illegals are not paid the minimum wage and struggling themselves but parisites and business people are getting rich off the backs of these poor people .

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    OMG... Wake up Government do the maths**...
    302,000 case load for only 149 staff
    You could increase staff X10 for 18 month on fix termed contracts.

    302,000 potential earners, non tax payers, benefit recipients etc...
    probably equates conservatively to £300m ++ costs/year

    ((** probably what happens if you ban calculators in school))

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Why doesnt any politician care about this country ? Immigrants that take without contibuting are not wanted. Why doesnt anyone in government see this? New Labour changed this country (and dumped on thier own voters) forever because of thier attitude to immigration. It hasnt really changed under tories.
    Told my kids to work hard and leave this country behind them as soon as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    957. Weare Just Universaldust

    So essentially what you're saying is that by being one of those ethnic minorities you listed, I am twice as likely to be a sex offender than you are (presuming you are not in one of those ethnic minorities)...

    Yours is the first post I've ever read on HYS that has actually made me angry...

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    Am I missing something, or is this too obvious.
    Right wing politics = Deregulation / free markets / free movement of labour / people
    Deregulation / free markets / free movement of labour = immigration.

    You can't preach a free market whilst controlling labour / people movements??

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    When will government listen to the people -WE DO NOT WANT MORE IMMIGRATION - SEND ILLEGALS HOME - FINITO. Whatever it needs - please do it - believe me it will be better for Britain in the short, medium and long term. I am already deeply fearful for my grandchildren's Britain that see will be deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines. Even as I write there are attempts to divide football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    This is the worst admission of Administration failure encouraging criminality I have heard in a long time, not party political. If they are illegal immigrants, they should remain illegal, whether they trick someone into marriage, have children or any other means..... they are criminals and should be punished and deported, full stop. It is similar to the police saying it is OK to commit rape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Wait, it is not just them. Some 50% of the more than 2 mllion illegal invaders in Greece have enterred there to go to UK. The rest to Germany and France. It is the responsibility of the UK and equivqlently of Germany and France to deal with them, not of Greece of course.

    So take another 1 million from Greece. It is coming soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    BBCAMERON are you looking LICE FEE rise? Moderated again! For the truth - what I can make of it it's about time you told the truth! By the way the Solomon Islands are not in the S.China seas. Thus you should put your UKBA there, as certain benefit scroungers might like to try to get back into the UK? I understand you've got a problem with trees Charlie will talk to them! He can win another medal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    Come 2066, there won't be any English left to commemorate or commiserate one way or the other. If you can't get em on side, just replace them. The Norman types, and the English sycophants won't give a hoot as long as they are safe and running things, everyone else, how dare we think we have a choice or a say in the running of our land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    951,only some immigrants work harder,my god there are so many that are here for the gravy train,i really dont have a problem with anyone coming here and contributing to the economy,but there are many serious abusers of our generosity,as if we havent got enough of our own,makes me spit nails it does,the incompetence of our govts et al is astounding and still they cant see the ire of the public

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    French revolution, a lot more than votes and money were lost.
    Beware David and the aristories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    @967.James, theres a difference between LEGAL and ILLEGAL immigration, I have no problem with LEGAL immigration, as they are people that in the main want to come to this country to work and to better themselves, its the ILLEGAL side of the immigration for those that are here simply to wait for opportunities that Vas is suggesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    609.Norbert How right you are, you won't find many British people wanting to do such menial work as cleaning or yucky manual work, ask the youngsters, themiddle class, the unemployed, they won't, why because its beneath them, doesn't pay enough. That's why we have foreign workers, they work hard, their not bothered about the work they do, it's a job, it give's you money, they are employed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    I am all for immigration done the proper way. We need talent from abroad

    =>No we don't. We need our own firms to train people up, offer apprenticeships, sponsor degrees.

    Importing these skills from non-EU countries is brain-draining and robbing countries of skills they probably need.


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