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 1057.

    Ah we must immediately allow in people from all over the world and also animals from all over the world becuase we are supposedly the kids of migrants! Stupid, ridiculous affected argument.

    "the gorging pigs are angry that more pigs are coming to feed." The people who are here built this country, and their parents sacrificed heavily during the war, to ensure our freedom and living standard. Theft

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    As much as people slate Immigration, this is only because we have the privilege of being born in a wealthy country. I can't blame immigrants for wanting a better life when they move away from failed states (e.g. Somalia and Afghanistan) because we would do the same in their position

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    @1029. Buckingham palace has lots of unused rooms, they could all go there and live, yes?.

    There is a empty constituency office in Mid-Bedfordshire and presumably at least an empty room each in the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

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

    Disingenuous.We've had a trickle of immigrants for centuries. Such numbers can be absorbed into society and the number of foreign born UK residents remained fairly static. However, from 1950 the % jumped from 4% then to 9% today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.


    I saw the same interview and thoroughly agree with you. What Mark Harper and many others fail to understand is that illegal immigrants have been coming to this country for a long time before the last Labour govt took office, so any Tory govt has got to take their share of any blame, instead of lumping all the ills of this country on the Labour Party..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    1013.Baron Brick
    Separate agencies I'm afraid.
    Tax is collected by HMRC.
    Borders are controlled (or not) by ... the Borders Agency.
    Illegals generally come across the border perfectly legally then become illegal by overstaying their visa or working outside their visa conditions. Some are smuggled in.

    1030.Toby Wilson
    You'd have to stop all tourists on that basis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    So how many these illegal immigrants are lost in the system Tesco seem to know when I shop at Tescos every time it can not be that hard.
    Some one at some point will have to say no more but its like the sovereign debt problem just kee kicking the can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    Old but still relevant:

    "In the UK there are between 524,000 and 947,000 illegal immigrants"

  • Comment number 1049.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    Now too angry to post a politically correct comment.
    Bring on the revolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    If the border agency get their way an we give yet another amnesty to illegal immigrants (last one was mid 70's) what happens next? Do they then focus on incoming illegals ? doubt it, they will just carry on being useless individuals and ask for another amnesty in a few years time

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    We should be like america, Australia, and the rest of the world tougher border controls. We couldn't go to another country and get FREE HOUSE, BENIFITS, NOT HAVE TO LOOK FOR WORK and claim for children that don't even live in this country, I make no wonder were overloaded with ILLEGALS!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    Someone's comment on her (sorry,can't trace original)

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

    The difference was that they were LEGAL.This is about people who have no right to be here because they are ILLEGAL.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    1024 as does the labour party,they are all as bad as each other,maybe,just maybe this may not have happened if the previous administration had got a grip on it before it got out of hand,unfortunately we are now seeing the aftermath of their legacy,who ever is in power have their own agenda and it will NEVER suit every one,but the problem does need tackling head on

  • rate this

    Comment number 1043.

    What happens when these "illegals" produce children. Their kids are "British" then out jump the "Looney Liberals" to proclaim you can't send the parents back as you will be splitting up the family.
    This country is half way "down the toilet" and we all sit wringing our hands.

    Time for the "Sheeple" to revolt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    Excellent. I need more reliable cost effective labour as we work our way out of the economic down turn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    close the doors
    get our armed forces x 3 to our borders
    get out of Europe
    deport illegal's
    deport foreign criminals
    no benefit to anyone unless paid in for 10 years
    no child tax credit (yet another sneaky benefit)
    no child benefits ( yet more benefits added to above)
    single mom 27 4 x kids on benefits gets over £400 cash per week
    + rent + c/tax paid =£35,000 pa =spending Your tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.

    609.Norbert - I don't think you're problem somehow, migration around the world to find work has been going forever ( My Dad came over from Ireland during WW2), however it must always be controlled otherwise people who have committed crimes in there own country will use it as a means of setting up undetected elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1039.

    In a 2010 case of a factory in Leicester that had over 100 illegal workers, I just KNOW that they will all still be here, and the factory owners most likely still in business ! HMG has no apettite for 'rounding up' these ppl - and I hav some sympathy with them as it would be rather third-reich-like to do that, SO the maxim has to be 'Prevention is better than Cure' - STOP THEM AT THE BORDERS!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1038.

    UKBA's processing is spiralling out of control in all directions. People with legitimate reasons to come to Britain are finding their passports and identity documents held for up to a year and told they must not contact UKBA whilst their application is in process. Couples and families are being forced to live apart for months. It's crumbling into total chaos. neat result of mass cutbacks?


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