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"

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    These totally inept Tories were going to clamp down on Immigration, yet their spending cuts have rendered The Border Agency unable to perform their duties. The number of missing immigrants has now actually increased by 25,000!
    Its long overdue for the totally incompetent Cameron and Osbourne to go. Trouble is, the best the Tories can now offer us is Barmy Boris Johnson!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    I got a fixed penalty speeding ticket in the summer. It took the lazy civil servants FOUR MONTHS to return my driving licence. Is it any wonder there is an ever growing backlog of illegal immigrants. The indexed link brigade only know two speeds, slow and stop. It's absolutely ridiculous that tens of thousands of free loading parasites are still here YEARS after they have been refused entry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    Find them and return them to were they came from, we do not have the jobs , housing , or the social system to keep them . Just because they broke the LAW to get in does not mean they can stay . What message does this give to the next wave that just want our social payments ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    Like it or not, want it or not. This amnesty WILL happen either overtly or covertly.

    If you are on a housing list, needing a job, waiting for an NHS operation, the victim of immigrant crime, experiencing congestion on roads etc your situation is about to get much worse.

    This is not about 320k immigrants mentioned above, its also about the untold number hiding in the shadows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    No1008 Bertie.
    ' where are they all going to live'
    How about the Royal Estates? we could build some 'model villages', creating work for those in the construction industry and associated professions. Just the sort of stimulous needed.
    It would increase tax revenue reduce the welfare burden, and demonstrare that we are 'all in it together'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    Oh absolutely spiffing - country overcrowded, youth unemployment at all time high, lack of resources, housing, SPACE, pensions in decline, the British way of life eroded more and more each day - questions to the individual who thought up this wonderful idea - Who exactly are these people to whom amnesty is to be granted, what are their 'loyalties',where will they live, and what will they do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    The most striking Harper remark was his "Call for Hunts" solution to bring in Capita to work the backlog.
    Now that the privatisation of UK Government work has been pretty much totally discredited on grounds of effectiveness, never mind probity, it is beyond belief that UKBA can be allowed to just pass the buck like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    I have absolutely no quarrel with anyone that's come here to work hard & pay taxes, wherever they're from or whatever their religion.

    I think the term 'illegal immigrant' should be redefined to ANYONE seeking entry into the UK without the above intentions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    Buckingham palace has lots of unused rooms, they could all go there and live, yes?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    In a free & dynamic economy/society, we'd welcome these people & labour. USA had almost open 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

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    #998 Black & Proud

    ="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?=

    No way Pedro, send then straight back to Amoebia I say, coming over here with their single cell ways..........

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    More Foreigners. Less English=Much better place to live.

    A poll put to Ex-pats showed that 11% left because they don't like British people.

    Look at that. So pathetic, vulgar, racist and simple, that the actual successful Brits that can afford to leave, would rather live with foreigners than Brits.

    I think it's great, keep it coming, Drive the little englanders back into their holes (or taxis)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    @1001. They cannot cope because of cutbacks by the Government

    > Cannot agree more.

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

    > Did you miss out the bit about "whilst keep a job as MP for Mid-Bedfordshire"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    Everybody knows that the Conservative party says one thing on immigration and then does another. Oh! What a surprise, they might just have let a huge number in without being able to monitor them. I'm so shocked! The country is hopelessly overpopulated, so much so that it's becoming a hell hole to live in with inadequate services, and great chunks of the country it's wize to keep out of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    Amnesty, "A pardon extended by the government to a group or class of persons, usually for a political offense; the act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of persons who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted" It's more than a pardon, as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the offense. Do I agree with this, no I don't, they are illegal, they should leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    Simple solution to the problem - deport everyone who should not be here in this country

    =>100% agree. It might be difficult catching them though common-sense plus the documents that prove legailty then move them out regardless of circumstance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    It seems we give an amnesty to or go soft on most criminals, so another lot will just be par for the course.
    When is the government going to take heed of honest, hard-working, tax-paying citizens.
    The welfare bill is massive at the moment, and needs to be cut, not increased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    Dey tuk arr Jeeerbs!

  • Comment number 1019.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    These people fiddled our system, whilst at the same time we offer them homes and our genuine 'BRITISH' soul.

    We are now that stretched our own people cannot find work, our kids are jobless and our old are having to go to work at 60+

    Get a grip people our political class and our elite are taking the 'piss'

    what for, because some banking industry 'gambled' to make profit for their own?

    Wake up


Page 8 of 59


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.