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 1157.

    "Border Agency may hand 'amnesty' to migrants...."

    NO! NO! NO!

    If it was illegal for non British to get benefits, use NHS and government services, rent or buy property and work. We might achieve some control.

    Australia is amazingly successful (compared to the UK) at controlling immigration.

    Do we deliberately fail to do so?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1156.

    There are 2 problems here. First, the UK Border Agency needs root and branch reform and reorganisation, as it's clearly failing to do its job as required. Second, the government's immigration policies are economically damaging, morally vacuous with unachievable targets; net, as it were, the UK benefits from immigration. Having realistic laws and targets, with sensible means to enforce them is key.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1155.

    If I were a passenger on a ship, and so many new passengers continued to board, to the point that the ship would sink and the passengers drown, I would say NO MORE... and i would not expect to be called a bigot, racist, or xenophobe. I would also expect my fellow passengers to have "bought a ticket".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1154.

    #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."


    Why so squeamish?
    In realpolitik you hold what you have and try to grab some more.
    Legality is decided by the winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1153.

    " JPublic
    I am Conservative but NOT Tory. Selfish, greedy Tories have hijacked the Conservative party long ago and I can never vote for them."

    Historically it was the Disraeli-ite Conservatives who "hi-jacked" the Tory party in the mid 19C when it tore itself apart over free trade (rather like it is with the EU today). The Tory party is much older: royalists after the Civil War. ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1152.

    NO -NO- NO amnesty for people who should not be here.NO-NO-NO for benefits for these people who should not be here. Would we get the same benefits etc if we went and became illegal immigrants in their country.We are the laughing stock of the world and known as a easy touch.No wonder these people make a beeline for this country.Stop all benefits etc and discourage them from coming here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.

    Instead of an amnesty deport every single one of them and let them re apply legally to be granted citzenship of the EU.

    Just ignore ang EU or Human Rights rumbling as they do in France and Italy. It's time we started acting more European as we are in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

    When i came to the country a person wants to get to the UK i mean smuggle inside here by paying £10,000 for the human smuggling gangs but now they charge around £ 17,000, people based in Saudi,Dubai,etc making our system is greate joke ...there are great coverup and its a greate scandal- be a citizen of this country i shame of the inaction of authrorties here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.

    Dr Kofi. I paid 4500 pounds to extent my two residence permit. My question is how many in the UK with a family of 4 people can afford it? Migrants are treated unfairly!"

    How sad, but you are of course at liberty to go back home as you think we are so unfair here. There are several hundred thousand ready to take your place, it seems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    1129. Whilst you are correct in saying that we need tax-payers, the other side is what the immigrant (e.g his family) takes out - because you will find that behind every WORKING imm (legal or not) is a family of 2, 3, 4 or 5 others who are NOT working and so COSTING us; why should my child have to wait for teacher attention because said teacher is spending more time with a Slovak child ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    UKBA is already very strict with their assessment on allocating a Visa. Took me more than 3 months to get my visa renew in fact, I need my passport to fly out for business. I am educated in UK, work here, pay tax and obey the laws but you know what? I am sometimes still being treated with racist remarks!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    #1120 That's a perfectly legitimate case,as Slovakia is part of the EU; you and your family could legitimately apply for Slovak benefits, where applicable, if you were working there. Same with reciprocal health arrangements.
    #1106/1107 Any actual stats on this? Because e.g. if you outstayed a student/tourist/work visa by 1 day,you're an 'illegal' even if contributing to UK economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    Why can't other countries be less crap then these migrants would not be so fussed to come here.

    Also benefits = free money to people who come from countries that have no welfare and not much worth living there for.

    Benefits should not be claimed unless you've live here for at least 5 years and paid into the system, non EU or not.

    Stop being a soft touch britain and grow some balls.

  • Comment number 1144.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    @504Defn28"i would like to think that if i ever decided to emigrate that i would be accepted in that country as it is in my own UK"

    It doesn't work like that. UK immigration policy has no bearing on whether you can emigrate elsewhere. Other countries simply do what they feel is right for them. e.g. South Koreans have emigrated all over the world, but S. Korea has relatively little immigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    1010. Weare Just Universaldust

    If you check out facts/figures, statistics, EVIDENCE & not just the perverse propaganda spin politicians


    Its nothing to do with propaganda or politics... you posted at 957 that because of my ethnic background I am more likely to be a criminal than you...

    Which, funnily enough isn't true...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    If we didn't have such a massive welfare state, we wouldn't really care would we? "

    Surely your libertarian, unfettered free market views should applaud these plucky, motivated people who want to succeed in life and who are prepared to compete for jobs and lower wage costs for business. Why impose barriers to entry which disadvantages the UK's ability to compete with low cost countries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    In the event of an amnesty is declaired we will no doubt suddenly find that the poulation of the UK is not circa 62 million but 65 million

  • Comment number 1139.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    foolish old britain, letting anyone in is crazy. what uk doesnt grasp is that it isnt the size of america and cannot deal with immigration in the same way as america. America is full, Britain is full, so who else is going to have them? Uk will keep taking them until something disastourous happens like ww3 or something!


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