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 1017.

    For a moment, I thought your report had entered the realms of humour. The Minister's statement that "If those people ever show up again we will take very firm action against them" is the stuff of pure comedic genius - and very, very worrying as the basis for anything deemed to resemble a policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    1003. Gabriel Oaks Not just the Government but the Political class. Like all issues you could not put a cigarette paper between them. Gone are the days of People who said some things that may have been unpalatable but raised points, now its Apps and fancy suits who study politics but have little grip on the real world. The choice is either not to vote or vote for the Independents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    Remember when Cameroon, Clagg and Brown had their TV debates. Cameroon promised to cut imigration to thousands, possibly the same time Clagg promised no tuition fees though. Perhaps they both had their fingers crossed behind their backs. Why should my money pay to keep illegal immigrants, if we cant get rid put them in tents on an island off the coast of Scotland see how they like it there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    To 967.James: You can't go on indiscriminately for ever allowing anyone and everyone into the country no matter who or why, just because of past history. This is now & isn't xenophobia, racism or being insular or petty - it's survival of the country. We can only manage so many incomers (plus our own pop growth) before there are no more resources whatever to share out, economic or otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    If the border agancy put as much effort and resources into sniffing out illegal imigrants as they do into collecting tax on people's duty free, we'd all have a job.... and have very well stocked drinks cabinets.
    It's all about collecting tax from people, as usual. Illegal imigrants aren't tax targets, so they're free to go. It's the rest of us who are held prisoners of the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    990.Seanus Maximus "Told my kids to work hard and leave this country behind them as soon as possible."

    Oh the irony. And no doubt when they do they'll sit in their Anglophone enclaves on the Costa Brava etc and write frothing letters to the International Edition of the Daily Mail (and yes it exists) ranting about how 'furriners' are wrecking the country they abandoned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    ..All in all this is now very difficult, because anyone from EU can just walk in and benefit for UK systems..

    Anyone who emigrates to the UK from the EU is not an illegal immigrant, these people are allowed to by law just as we can emigrate to another country in the EU if we want to. However, if they only enter the country on an a short visa and overstay, then they become an illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    4 Minutes ago
    957. Weare Just Universaldust

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

    If you check out facts/figures, statistics, EVIDENCE & not just the perverse propaganda spin politicians & other PC truth perverts produce, then RIGHTLY you should be ANGRY at the FULL TRUTH, but YOU'RE angry at ME & REJECT TRUTH

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    "My husband and I had to fight for a year after we got married to allow him to settle with me in this country"
    Couln't you have settled in his country?Or maybe looked into all of this before you got married?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    No wonder the benefit system is on it's knees, and where are they all going to live?

    No doubt the looney Labour councils will give them a council house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    If people are here illegally they should be identified and removed from the country, the very suggestion of an amnesty just encourages others. We need to have a solid unwavering resolve to remove people who have no right to be here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    No to any amnesty. Get these people out of the country. Now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    You do realise that Hungary is a member of the EU don't you?
    And are you sure they're getting the benefits you state or is that just an assumption on your part?

    I don't hold a current UK passport, so would have a problem showing it. I don't need one as a citizen by right of birth and no use of one to travel abroad due to lack of funds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    Simple................... CLOSE the borders, Learn from Australia, that should'nt too hard for our leaders (LOL)(Bags of Education BUT no common sense) who are only interested in other countries certainly not the UK. Pursue ALL illegals, mentally ill or not, then get rid of them back to THEIR birth country

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    Perhaps the real problem is not the immigrants but the government?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    I am glad to hear that the government are investing £60 million on space.
    It is about time we are running out of it. How much are terraforming machines these days?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    @972.Gabriel Oaks
    "The Border Agency can't cope so the answer is for them to stop doing their job."

    They cannot cope because of cutbacks by the Government who are pro-Capitalist in a big way. 27% pay increases for Directors, pay freezes, job cuts, easier for your Boss to fire you..

    Smell the big, rotten stinking rat?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    This story makes me so mad.My husband and I had to fight for a year after we got married to allow him to settle with me in this country.We were seperated for a year. We had to go through the appeal process and even after we had won, we still waited 3 months to be reunited! Its an insult to all of us and I take it very personally

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    If the UKBA is as knowledgeable and factually precise about immigration as is the migration minister Mark Harper. I listened to his verbal gymnastics on the BBC this morning when he failed to answer any of the questions put to him. His only certainly was the backlog of immigrants left by the last Labour government.
    It does seem that the government has no idea about the state of immigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    "Pretty much everyone in this country is an immigrant or a descendent of immigrants, if you go back far enough."

    Is this an argument for granting full citizenship to the amoeba?


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