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 1137.

    It has happened to most empires - the migrants come and go and the history of man on the move continues. Now it is our turn. Ultimately it demonstrates the absolute inability of any British govt (or elsewhere for that matter) to stop it. In the final analysis, human migration will never be controlled. It is phenomenal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    Supposedly we need legal migrants, but I can't get £500 help from DSS (been on Incap 20yrs) to take a Comp TIA A+ course to get into one of the skill shortage areas that we supposedly need to bring in migrants for! I have a BA, and metric test in areas of 100%, 97%, most at better than 92% of population and none lower than 72%. No work for me, let alone the pay that ought to come withthese abils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    It is remembrance sunday soon, where we honour the people who died preventing our Britain from being invaded and changing our culture. Why did we fight these wars?

    I am humbled by the sacrifices these people made in order for successive governments to simply give away our land to people with far less in common with our native values.

    I am also ashamed today to have voted for this government

  • rate this

    Comment number 1134.

    @1130 clearly the schools aren't good enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1133.

    1121. heaven1977 

    Walloons, later came the Huguenots their now anglicized names remain. This is what will happen to most of the immigrants coming in now; two or three generations and they will just have blended into the background.

    Wow but there are not even 3 million Walloons in Belgium today !! are you suggesting 3 million Asians will blend into the background ?? are you on something ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1132.

    Sorry mofro, but we dont need immigrants. Kick the average British work person up the a**s and make them work! More importantly, make them WANT TO WORK! Bring back National Service, get them into a disciplined enviroment, Do the things their parents and school teachers should have done when they were growing up, and you may find a generation that may, just may, be worthy of being caring British

  • rate this

    Comment number 1131.

    Perhaps we should start by sendng back all asylm seekers who are here but not working, then we can send back the asylm seekers who are working but shouldn't be, then do a business by business search for illegals & send then packing. What we need is for the government to employ MORE border agency staff, more intelligence staff & more council staff to do the checks until the illegals have all gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1130.

    its taken many years for the uk to build a great country
    with benefits /schools/health/police etc
    all being erroded by open door system
    look to any other country if you bringing what they need will you be allowed in, then you'll have to support yourself /be mentored
    our pot is being drained !
    and yes most countires have let people in so what
    but we seem to be the dumping ground for the dross

  • rate this

    Comment number 1129.

    you people are not seeing the big picture. We need tax payers. It don't matter were there from as long as they pay tax. Lets face it them loons on jeremy kyle are all british born and bred, and none of em work for a living, they ain't paying tax there claiming benefits there the real burden on our backs and the fact that your granny will live till she's 110 and cost us all a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1128.

    @1101 Tolvir. Actually the Welsh and Scots claim to be British or, very oddly, Celtic. The English are descendants of waves of immigrants, Saxons, Angles etc., from Northern Europe. Personally I blame it on those blasted Normans, coming over here taking all the top jobs. Send 'em home I say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1127.

    No No No No no

    Once the genie is out.....

    Just because something is difficult does not mean it should not be pursued.

    Are we to provide the recipients of the amnesty with benefits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1126.


    Your completely missing the point, I dont have an issue with migration as long as its LEGAL what gives some the right to come here and not pay a penny to do so and others have to pay and jump through hoops to be here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1125.


    I couldn't agree more, it's just a shame the majority of the PC crowd who started the experiment don't have to live in it & endure the mess their PC do gooder ideas have created for the rest of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1124.

    #1045 The March Hare

    ="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.=


    Romans were here legally?




  • rate this

    Comment number 1123.

    1061. BareBodkin
    "And you know that for a fact do you ... the DNA of various people "
    My patronymic ancestors lived in The Isles of Scotland until the 17th C when the made their way to Lincs and intermarried with yeomen who were later dispossessed by the Inclosures.
    My maternal line is from Wales and Herefordshire.
    I'm more UK than English over 1000 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    The sacking stick must come out at the Border Agency.
    More incompetence from the public sector which must be made accountable to the people who pay their wages, us

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    My home town is Norwich, in the mid 1500s over a third of the population were Flemish or French Walloons, later came the Huguenots all of these people have disappeared into population on history and their now anglicized names remain. This is what will happen to most of the immigrants coming in now; two or three generations and they will just have blended into the background.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    Here's a 100% true story for all you imm. lovers out there; a Slovak chap moved to Derby in 2010 - yes, he works ! (a Porter) - but his wife and FIVE children don't, SO, his £1,800 tax he contributes each year is swallowed up by Child Benefit, not to mention the hidden costs of healthcare (two births here in 2 years) and housing assistance and education. Marvellous stuff ! We need more like that

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    I think you'll find that 2 1/2yrs of this inept Govt is actually considered to be 2 1/2yrs too long by the majority of us. Roll on the Election. Here in the North East this lot are despised and couldn't win a raffle. We're envious of Scots who by voting for Independence can ensure that they will never have to suffer Tories again! Perhaps one day we might be able to join Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    Sorry, but unless you make everybody carry an identity card (remember them) you will not overome this problem. You also need to record everybody out as well as record everybody in.

    Would all the hassle be really worth it?


Page 3 of 59


More UK stories



  • A very clever little girlBrain gain

    Why are people getting better at intelligence tests?

  • BeefaloBeefalo hunt

    The hybrid animal causing havoc in the Grand Canyon

  • A British Rail signBringing back BR

    Would it be realistic to renationalise the railways?

  • Banksy image of girl letting go of heart-shaped balloonFrom the heart

    Fergal Keane on the relationship between love and politics

  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth

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.