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 1177.

    Oh and the EU freedom of movement is just great for english people going to earn in poland."

    Well, 2 million Brits seem to have taken up the opportunity to live, work, retire or own property in the rest of the EU. Poland might well not be a favoured spot, but when the UK was the "sick man of Europe" lots of building workers too jobs in W Germany as in "Auf Weidersehen Pet"

  • Comment number 1176.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    " JPublic
    I deeply suspect the actual figures to be considerably higher."

    You genuinely do prefer to use gut feel, "common sense", suspicion and intuition to empirical evidence, don't you? How on earth can sensible policy be developed in the absence of evidence and facts in the face of public prejudices? In the absence of evidence, my guess is every bit as credible as yours or anyone else's!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    Isn't it time the Agency used the formula - 'prove to us that you have the right paper work to be in this country' rather than not being able to find a passport or relevant papers so they're allowed to stay. Sorry if you haven't been through the proper channels then it's adios. If there is no proof of where they came from that's their problem not ours.

  • Comment number 1173.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    superJulian, UK is rampant with STI's yet, the only country where screening for them can affect your life insurance. The port sailors who fathered UK, did NOT need a card.
    " by in-country checks on passports/visas when accessing jobs, National Insurance numbers, healthcare, benefits, and housing - like every other country in the world. So far the authorites here refuse to grasp this nettle".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    No wonder the benefit system is on it's knees"

    Err, illegal immigrants cannot claim benefits. The clue is in the word "illegal".

    "and where are they all going to live?"

    In one of the growing number of buy to let properties: about 1.5 million of them apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    It astounds me that a lot of immigrants are given housing and benefits, my husband is American and upon his arrival had 'NO ACCESS TO PUBLIC FUNDS' stamped in his passport (which I agree with) yet if you're from anywhere else it's handed to you.
    Give them all a TV - it seems easier to catch those who don't pay their TV license than those here illegally and who are earning money to live somehow...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    You ask yourself why do all these immigrants come to the uk and not the likes of oz, the answer, great Britain is a soft touch, and this just proves my point. We shud be as strict as oz and Canada, I have flown into both their countries for just a holiday and I was asked where I was staying (including the odd hotel), if I was visiting anyone, how long do I plan to stay. Here they just let u in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    dig into any gene pool
    virtually all of us are a mix SO WHAT
    we're on about the waste of our money and valuable resources
    built up over the last 60 + or so years of working people
    which as allowed the population of the mid century to actually climb out of poverty(better food, health,educ,police etc)
    We arent the world and his dogs keeper
    so stop handing it out
    as were going to be broke !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    One thing which is curious is how eagre some peopl eare to call for an end to immigration, when the article is about the inffectiveness of the UKBA.

    We do not need to be stricter, more draconian, less British about this, we just need civil servants to do the job they are paid for, and do it properly.

    The story here is about Govenrmental failure, not about how horrid them foreigners are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    1112. The March Hare

    Thank you and you are right of course we can’t just let in anybody, but it’s difficult to have a proper conversation about this subject because this HYS soon gets hijacked by screaming vitriol. What this piece of news clearly shows is that the Tories have no more control of immigration than labour had.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.


    Really no point in having a discussion with someone like you who avoids the real points at hand.

    My final point is again I have no issue with migration, I have not said it hasnt happened for centruries etc but if your going to come here, come here LEGALLY simple as that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    A tory goes on a get me out of here jaunt.

    Osborne dodges his own rail ticket..

    Dave forget his own child at his local.

    no in/out referendum

    Nick lies about the tuition fees.

    This immigration problem is just yet another blow to the people of the UK.

    What was it, school boys who dont know the price of milk, or a first class ticket.

    Shame on us for letting this government in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1163.

    At present, illigal immigrants can not use the health care system without lieing about their names. This can affect their health records in the long term. This allows multitudes of disease to spread and mutate into things that plague the entire country. I returned from the UK with a parasite no one had seen here. I wasn't living in Africa... I was living in the UK. AMNESTY NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1162.

    Here we go again.

    Our useless politicians in action.

    Come on in everybody it doesnt matter we have no proper schools or hospitals or houses for our own people.

    Democracy has failed this country.Who asked for a multi cultural britain I certainly didnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1161.

    Norbert, you've hit the nail on the head ! Employers should get an extra tax for paying a worker less than he would pay a Brit. Then he would only keep or employ those who worked the best.

    I am happy to see that the UK gives Poles the opportunity to work here, it is the least we can do for the people who helped us enormously during the WWII. The Polish RAF Sqn shot down more enemy than any other

  • rate this

    Comment number 1160.

    Get rid of unemployment benefits and send any immigrants home. Maybe that will help clear up Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1159.

    Unlike other countries, once in the UK an immigrant faces no checks on their legal status to be here and can effectively disappear. If you or I thought someone were here illegally, to whom would we report our suspicion? The police? DWP? Our MP? Certainly not the UKBA as they are seriously understaffed, and aren't looking very competent right now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1158.

    Having signed a defense pact with the UAE, could we not have some of their troops come and defend our borders, it seems to me we're pretty crap at it.


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