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 1097.

    Immigration is out of control and both Labour and the Tories have done nothing to stem this influx.

    Talk of an amnesty is nothing short of saying the battle on immigation is lost.

    What an almighty mess.

    Please ask India for foreign aid so we can tackle some of our immigrant poverty issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    If UK politicians have so much love for us and care deeply about our welbeing, by making us label hot taps as "contents maybe hot", why did 4 Alabians get stoped around the corner from my house only for the Police to find they ALL had hand guns on their person? Do we know anything about who we let in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    1061. BareBodkin
    And you know that for a fact do you, There was a documentary on a couple of years ago that examined the DNA of various people who believed they were of pure English decent, turned out not to be the case for almost all of the people tested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    political parties are supposedly voted in (not the present one) by us. we are to blame for sitting back and not doing anything about it. Until the nation turns the telly off and stands up against these people nothing will change.its now illegal to voice your opinion about it or to hold protests.
    country sinking lower.
    Time to turn eastenders off....they ca't arrest the whole nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    The facts here seem to be that a Government Agency charged with Border Control no longer knows whether a large number of people are living legally or illegally in this country or if they have left. It then tries to obfuscate the issue by less than transparent accounting. Heads should roll, and I await the public disgrace of those in charge as was meted out to G4S over the Olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    @1078.darlo50, 2 years is not long in terms of anything, economies normally work on a 5-10 year lead. Illegal Immigration has been a serious problem for the last 20 years, Labour did nothing to put it right instead it introduced the 'find an Illegal and bail them' principle so that they could run and hide again, and again, and again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    This is now a non-political issue - so all 3 parties should unite to solve it ! We demand it ! One school in Derby has 27 languages spoken (fact), but Gove then complains about poor teaching - actually poor 'quality' of students is more apt. In an over-populated country with 3 mil work-less, we need ZERO imm, UNLESS WEEEE want it e.g a US lawyer working here on big money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    1068.Jester Minute
    I don't think it's right that UK child benefit should be claimable for EU citizens not resident in this country.
    That's a problem with the system rather than with EU migration per se.
    My question was whether SaveourCountry @ 970 was giving facts or assumptions about their neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    Amnesty for illegal immigrants???

    NO THANK YOU - 99.999% of your constituents would surely be against this.

    Do what it takes. Spend the money now (instead of paying later). Employ more capable Border Agency staff.

    Let's get a grip here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.



    No excuse for illegally coming here im afraid, if they need to come for whatever reason do it the correct way like many many others already have.

    The ppl who came here legally have spent alot of money doing so, the illegal ones completely undermine that fact!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    "What happens when these "illegals" produce children."
    1046.Mrs Joe 90
    "We should be like america,"
    In the USA they fly flags everywhere to remind the polyglot population who they are - a bit like working in the amorphous trading room of a bank with a big logo on the wall.
    And the only way to resolve their migrant mess is citizenship if you get born on the premises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    Nasty place now the U.K. full of Racist & Haters Sneering Cultural Bigots who hate foreigners and want to preserve their own culture at all costs . That's just the immigrants !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    @1068.Jester Minute.

    Yes, child benefit is being sent abroad and shouldn't be.
    I'd be interested to know if any other country does this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    Some talk of the need for an economic stimulus. Hiring more UKBA staff to handle the backlog will reduce the backlog AND put money into the economy.

    Couple that with punitive penalties for employing illegal immigrants, with strict liability and no reference to ability to pay. If a company hires illegals and gets caught, bankruptcy should be a reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    increase border staff but here is an idea, why not put border control under the army's umbrella of operation, therefore we don't need to cut our armed forces as they can man our border controls when not deployed overseas and have the border controls as a domestic of 'tour of duty', so we get dedicated highly capable and trained people manning or borders. Simple solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    The easy alternative again, so open the doors let them flood in but stop all the benefits, then the gravy train may come to a stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    Immigration control in this country is just a joke

    =>These officials and gov should try to emigrate to the Pacific Islands. You'd get no further than "Arrivals" without depositing the return fare and if you did get a job there you'd last until a native person could take it. Then, unless you're rich, back here you'd come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    This blog does not work. Having edited my comment from 10 characters over the limit to 0 over, it then changes to 23 characters over and having reduced it further by 23 characters it tells me I am 52 over the limit. New form of censorship perhaps. As I finish this it is now telling me I have 92 characters left. BBC I love you----It just jumpoed to 112 chracters left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    What I find so typical about all of this is that we quote numbers dehumanising the issue. Each person has his own story to tell about why they are here. As de Tocqueville stated no one is an exile unless it has been forced through misfortune. Many years ago imperial powers walked into everyone else's territories regardless, How conveniently we forget history & the humanity of such an issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    Stop blaming Labour for everything. The inept Tories have had long enough now to be getting results.
    But they're actually going to borrow £7bn more this year than Labour did. They have increased Unemployment by about a 1m. The Borders Agency, Tax Credits Office, and Student Loans Company are all on the verge of collapse due to cutbacks. They target the poor yet cut tax for the rich.


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