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 1077.

    Note to Dave..

    Hope the new app helps you whilst you LEARN to ride a horse and eat from your Bullingdon club menu.
    When the REAL electorate punishes you, and the rest.. how can i say utter shambles in the HOC.

    It will be when the people have had enough of the lies, deception spinning, political rubbish that your all guilt of
    Maybe, just maybe, we drag you out of your little world, and punish you

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    1) Halt ALL immigration.
    2) Reduce unemployment by hiring more border staff.
    3) Work through backlog, deporting illegals.
    4) Implement a system that counts who comes in.
    5) Set criteria each year to match our economic needs.
    6) Strictly adhere to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    @1050.David H
    Old but still relevant:

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

    I deeply suspect the actual figures to be considerably higher.Politicians will always play down the number, even in opposition for fear of the racist card being pulled. They just don't know what the real number is. But just take a look around you. Legal or not, we are overburdened.

  • Comment number 1074.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    In a move to improve the BBC's standing with its funding providers (we the British license-payers) in the light of the publicity over other events recently, would you - the BBC - please take it upon yourself to pass on all the comments on immigration herein personally to the Prime Minister and by this show him and parliament the clear almost unqualified view of the British people on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    There are loads of firms who don't advertise their minimum wage job openings because they wan't illegals who will work for less than minimum wage, as a result there is almost no way for a Brit to get onto the job ladder - it is very area specific I suppose, where I am there are NO part time jobs and they don't pay enough to move for them, many young people here simply can't get on the job ladder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    You can't control your Borders, you can't control your Bankers. iT'S The greatest occupation of a Country without a bullet being fired. They're having no more sponduliks off me No no Mas. The Yanks say wake up & smell the coffee! Adios I'm off to watch the BBC on a sundrenched beach in Tenerife! RIPOFF BRITAIN YOU'VE BEEN STUFFED.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    It's not about nationalism, minorities etc. It's about fairness and seeing our tax spent wisely. Cut through all the nonsense and that's the way I see it. If we stress our countries failing infrastructure we all suffer or have to pay more yet more.

    As a UK tax payer all I want is value for my money. Sadly "value for money" will not win any elections anytime soon. Too many troughers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    This issue boils down to population size in the UK and our failing infrastructure to deal with basics for existing population.

    I don't know, but dare I suggest that genuine migrants here for education and work, already arranged, are seething at illegal migrants too?
    The UK, historically, has been a safe haven - but perhaps now it has become such a soft touch that it insults it's original intent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    1005.Katz_in_Bedford said "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?"

    Where one of my family worked an EU migrant was claiming child benefit for 6 kids still in own country & he sent it back home. Don't know about you but I don't think that's right or fair on British taxpayers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    The government cut UKBA resources just as it became tough on migrants. Completely legal immigrants need to wait more than 6 months to have their passports returned and visa processed. Despite fees of upto £1500 per applicant. Give the manpower to UKBA and fix all the problems, the UKBA is a national embarrassment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    #925 'We cannot give a job to or protect every individual in the world.'
    We are not being asked to, but as we 1)Get involved in overseas conflicts, some refugees head our way. 2)As EU members, there is free movement of labour 3) as head of the Commonwealth, we are treated as the Mother country.
    Immigration is completely natural and there are, in fact (

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    @1056 JR

    I would agree, if i weren't born in Britain, and born in a far worse country, I'd try and try and try(or try once with the current border agency) to get into Britain and I don't blame any of the immigrants trying to get in, but loathe the government for letting it happen with no consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    Immigration control in this country is just a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    As a legal immigrant, I am screwed to get my visa renewed, have to follow the law to the word, be at my best behaviour at all times, which is fine by me and wait for 2 months in anticipation to hear a verdict on my application. Methinks it is more easy to be a illegal than being a legal one. Illegals(murderers, terrorists, rapists) are allowed to use the "human rights" loophole, but not me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    The time is approaching to do our duty and protect that which our ancestors bestowed upon us in good faith, for the future of our identity and children.

    Tear it up and start again, general elections have become a vanity exercise for our political class and mandate has been abandoned and replaced with the ideologies of the few who live outside of our reality.

    Its going to get very messy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    #998 Black & Proud
    "Pretty much everyone in this country is an immigrant or a descendent of immigrants, if you go back far enough."
    Yes, and the bones of my ancestors Eric Bloodaxe and Thorfinn Skullcleaver are beginning to torment me at my weakness in allowing all these newcomers to trample the turf they carved out for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    @1045.The March Hare, not technically, the Romans, Saxons and Normans pretty much were illegal immigrants its just that they managed to stay due to brute force and suppression of the native population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.


    "...Higher wages = more consumer spending = better economy"

    Actually, no!

    Higher wages = more consumer spending = price inflation = higher interest rates = mortgage defaults, etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    The problem here is ILLEGAL immigration/asylum seekers,not immigrants from eastern europe.All EU citizens have a right to live & work anywhere in the EU including UK citizens.These are two seperate issues which require to be dealt with individually.The first issue needs a much stronger approach to border control & an efficient deportation system. The second can only be solved by withdrawal from EU


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