UKBA backlogs: Inspectors find thousands of new cases


John Vine, chief inspector of immigration: "The agency is bedevilled with paper"

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Immigration inspectors have discovered more UK Border Agency (UKBA) backlogs, totalling more than 16,000 cases.

The chief inspector of immigration said the latest backlogs, relating to requests to settle through marriage, were "unacceptable".

The backlogs included people waiting a decade to hear if their partner had permission to live in the UK.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper denied the Border Agency was a "shambles", and said managers were "getting a grip".

The marriage or civil partnership-related backlog is thought to be the 10th category of unresolved cases that has emerged in the past two years.

Inspectors looked at how well the agency was handling applications from people from outside the European Economic Area who have a partner already in the country, such as a husband or wife who is British.


Graphic showing the size of the backlog against the total number of immigration cases.
  • Live asylum cases: 25,500
  • Asylum controlled archive: 74,000
  • Live immigration cases: 3,500
  • Immigration controlled archive: 21,000
  • Migration Refusal Pool: 174,057
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders living in the community: 3,954
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders untraced: 53
  • Student visa checks backlog: Unknown number
  • Rejected Spousal application seeking reconsideration: 14,000
  • Temporary migrants including marriage applicants: 2,100 (now closed)
  • Total: 316,000

Sources: Home Affairs Committee and inspection reports, Home Office

John Vine, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said the majority of decisions were reasonable and caseworkers checked whether applicants were known criminals.

But he said his team had found a backlog of 14,000 cases where the UKBA failed to deal with requests to reconsider decisions after an initial rejection.

When inspectors visited a UKBA office in Sheffield they found a further backlog of 2,100 "complex" temporary migration cases. These included 180 marriage entry or settlement applications which had not received an initial decision. Some dated back to 2003.

One inspector said the unresolved applications had been effectively "dumped" on the Sheffield team after being transferred in a box from the UKBA's Croydon offices. Officials have since dealt with these cases.

At the time of the inspection last year, the marriage-related backlog was growing at a rate of 700 cases a month. Caseworkers told inspectors they could not deal with them until they had received new policy guidance.

However, a senior manager told inspectors that agency chiefs were unaware that these cases were not being dealt with and staff could make decisions without waiting for new policy.

'Not acceptable'

Mr Vine said: "I don't think I should be discovering these backlogs. The agency should know about its workload. It should prioritise its resources and, at the very least, have a plan to deal with some of the things that we come across in inspection.

"For people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards."

Case study

Gerard Hearne, from Rotherham, has been trying to bring his Thai wife to the UK since last year.

"We got married in early February out there. I came back after two weeks, I had to get back to the UK," he says.

"I kept thinking... two months, three months, she'll have her visa.

"When she was turned down in October and I organised the appeal, I went out there in late November.

"I went to spend a month with her and I naively thought that by having sent the appeal into Leicester that that would be forwarded to Bangkok, they would quickly check it through, 'say yes, ok'.

"And I, naively, thought my wife would be coming back to me for Christmas on 22 December.

"As the month went on it became apparent that that was never going to happen. I did actually ring the embassy at one point to say 'have you got the documentation?'

"I just try and get through each day. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel reasonable ok and other days I feel so low, so down. It's difficult to know how to keep going. "

The immigration minister said: "We inherited an agency which had a lot of problems, we've got a new management team to deal with it. They're getting a grip and dealing with it."

Mr Harper said 14,000 of the cases "weren't people waiting for a decision", but people "who didn't like the decision and didn't go through the proper appeal mechanism".

"And what the Border Agency should have said in the past, it should have said 'no, there's an appeal process, if you don't like the decision, appeal'," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"But it didn't do that, it kind of accepted these requests [and] didn't have a process to deal with them.

"We have now got a clear policy, published, about how we deal with those - which is people should appeal properly and those people who have been refused are not allowed to stay here. Should leave the country and we will be taking steps to make sure that they do."

Lin Homer, who headed the Border and Immigration Agency and later the UK Border Agency, between 2005 and 2010, is currently chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs.

Chart showing the number of spouses and civil partners granted leave to remain in the UK since

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  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Say it aint so, Joe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    There's a backlog in everything called 'public service' as hands on jobs are slashed and it's going to get worse when the privates are handed multi-million contracts and do the job worse than useless, like a4e.

    I dunno if the Blues really think private is best or if they are all company bosses playing at politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    what is adding to the backlog is people re-appealing when their initial application is rejected!! If the initial application is rejected, then they should be sent on their way! End of!! Our resources need to be used for our UK citizens!! we should stop people coming into the country until we are stable as a nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    72.Global Yawning
    Didn't Labour open the flood gates in return for votes?

    I suppose immigration officials were looking the wrong way! .

    They probably weren't there at all. Also, see post 74 by The Hierophant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Is anyone surprised? Government agencies are notoriously incompetent and inefficient, run on a 'jobs for the boys' basis. Good competent managers from private industry could sort it out, but we need them to run businesses and of course they're not on the list of 'boys' to be given such jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    If you are reducing the number of staff to deal with this problem, the result will be longer delays!! Its not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Its a joke. Some of these date back 10 years. Why the hell didn't labour deal with it then. Another mess that they covered up for this government to deal with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    A sports stadium has a capacity. When that capacity is overfilled the stadium becomes overcrowded and very unsafe.

    The same thing is happening to this country.

    Close the gates now ! We are full !

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I wonder if Labour had anything to do with burying of these applications?. The scale of the immigration problems facing this country are absolutely huge. After all the problems they have caused us, Labour want us to trust them with the reigns of power again. A lot of right thinking people don't believe Labour have any chance after the economic and immigration carnage they have caused, but......

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    In Gold I Trust
    Fully agree. Try to come in officially, its £800 per person, hundreds in document fees then six months waiting fo some bureaucrat to say no on a whim. In the back door it's free, you get all your rights held in the country and an allowance to let you fight the system through the court. Immigration control should start with the illegals, not by chasing away legitimate visitors

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Why should we take 'asylum' seekers from Africa, Asia, South America.

    The world is big enough for asylum seekers to be accomodated in their native continent

    The truth is the asylum system is abused by economic migrants seeking the most easy & generous

    The Convention was written post Holocaust 60 years ago, it is now out of date & should be re-written to reflect current conditions

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    It's ridiculous! why not grant a blanket amnesty for all illegals and asylum seekers. This would bring the backlog down to zero. We can then start afresh with a beefed up immigration service able to cope with all the new arrivals so that we can let them in without queueing. The delays at airports are appalling and we need faster a throughput of immigrants welcomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    This incompitance has made the uk a complete dump, culture and heritage trampled into the gutter!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The reason why UKBA is shambolic is because it suits the govts purpose for it to be so. Allowing a constant stream of cheap labour into Britain to do the low paid jobs the indigenous people refuse whilst at the same time blaming an understaffed public office forcing it to take the blame for the shortcomings.
    Just wait till next years influx of Romanians & Bulgarians start coming in their thousands

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    "However, a senior manager told inspectors that agency chiefs were unaware that these cases were not being dealt with and staff could make decisions without waiting for new policy."

    "Unaware" and " leave it to the staff". How is this person a manager at all let alone a senior manager? Booze ups and breweries spring to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Immigration is the worst part of being in the EU (Overall we should be part of it for sure). The fact is, Britain is in a better state than many other EU countries and the benefits they give out make it really encouraging for people to move here.

    It needs to be stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    If there is a backlog then there must be too many here for the system to cope with. The answers therefore is easy, send them back and create some jobs for the UK residents, don't inflate the system to suit. - sorted - next problem please

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Listen a recently convicted murderer a foriegn national previously fled a part of the UK first by ferry then by plane to his native country! I suppose immigration officials were looking the wrong way! Ironically he had to be extradited back to UK for trial....Immigration In / Out is a complete shambles!

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    58.Paul C "If we need more manpower to clear the backlog, surely we can employ some of the thousands of unemployed to do some of the paperwork."

    Agency workers have been called into UKBA offices and they don't care about immigration let alone have the aptitude to do the work. They come in, mess things up, leave and expect public services to pick up the bits, costing more money and time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Nither UKBA, Immigration Minster and Home Scretary are doing their Job.It has appeared so many times in Media but no one takes Notice. If you inform UKBA about things which are wrong, they do not acknowledge or take any action.So many times it has appeared in Media that UKBA is not fit for Job they are doing but Immigration Minster/Home Secretary do not take any notice but defend UKBA.


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