Saturday, November 5, 2011

UK Border officials 'have lost track of 124,000 asylum seekers and migrants'

Border officials have lost track of a population of asylum seekers and migrants as big as that of Cambridge, it emerged last night.

MPs said the number of individuals ‘lost’ by the UK Border Agency had almost tripled in six months from 40,500 in March to 124,000 in September.

Officials say they have placed the cases in a so-called ‘controlled archive’ for applicants who cannot be contacted by officials. But the home affairs select committee said the archive had, in reality, become a ‘dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant’.

The archive includes the cases of around 98,000 asylum seekers who cannot be found, in which the agency has no idea whether the applicant even remains in the UK. Following a UKBA review, it also includes around 26,000 migrant cases, most of which are more than eight years old, relating to those who have overstayed their visas or who have been refused an extension of leave, such as students.

The MPs said: ‘Whilst we appreciate the difficulties involved in tracing people with whom the agency have lost contact, usually for a period of several years, it is clear that the controlled archive has become a dumping ground for cases on which the agency has given up.

‘From 18,000 files in November 2010, the archive now contains 124,000 files, roughly equivalent to the population of Cambridge.’ Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘The UK Border Agency is still not providing the efficient, effective service that Parliament expects.’

David Cameron recently called upon the public to report any suspected visa over-stayers or other illegal immigrants to the Crimestoppers hotline so UKBA could investigate.

But Mr Vaz added: ‘There is little point in encouraging people to do this if the border agency continues to fail to manage the intelligence it receives or to keep track of those who apply to stay.’

The process of going through old asylum and immigration cases began under Labour. Where officials could not find the applicant, they put their case into the controlled archive so they could effectively stop looking.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group MigrationWatch, said: ‘This is Labour’s chaotic asylum legacy.’
Border officials have lost track of a population of asylum seekers and migrants as big as that of Cambridge, it emerged last night.

Where are they? Officials say they have placed the cases in a so-called 'controlled archive' for applicants who cannot be contacted by officials

And Damian Green, Minister for Immigration, said: ‘I am determined to deal with the historic asylum cases left by the last government and we are making real progress tackling the archive to trace these individuals.’

The revelation came as the public continued to sign the MigrationWatch ‘No to 70million’, which calls on ministers to get a firm grip on immigration policy, at the rate of more than 1,000 every hour yesterday. Last night, the Downing Street e-petition had been signed by 67,000.


Canadian Immigration Minister hits pause on family reunification applications

Jason Kenney is walking a fine political line: seeking to slim a bloated immigration backlog without jeopardizing his Conservative government’s support among new Canadians – many of whom voted Conservative in the last election.

That careful balancing act was on display Friday when the Citizenship and Immigration Minister placed a two-year moratorium on applications from parents and grandparents seeking to reunite with family members in Canada.

The freeze is intended to thin a family-reunification backlog that could soon produce wait times of up to ten years.

But to counter concerns that Mr. Kenney is trying to curtail family reunification, the Conservative government introduced a new and generous visa for parents and grandparents who want to stay with their family in Canada.

“We understand how important it is for Canadians, including new Canadians, to live with their loved ones,” Mr. Kenney declared at a news conference Friday. But “we need to change the math.”

About 6 per cent of all immigrants to Canada are parents and grandparents of existing immigrants. But family-unification applications have far outstripped available spaces, creating a backlog of 165,000 applicants and wait times of seven years, which will lengthen to 10 years by 2018 if there are no changes.

“That is why it is absolutely essential that we bring in a temporary pause on applications,” Mr. Kenney said.

The moratorium is expected to reduce the backlog to about 50,000, while the government seeks to craft a new application process that matches the number of people who are allowed to apply to spaces available. In the meantime, the quota for parental and grandparental admissions will increase by 60 per cent, to 25,000 admissions a year, to further clear the backlog.

For those who waiting to immigrate or to get on the list, the new 10-year visa will allow parents and grandparents to stay for as long as two years at a stretch. However they must, if required, take a medical exam first; they must purchase private medical insurance while in Canada, and their children or grandchildren must be able to demonstrate that they can support the visiting relative.

Don Davies, NDP immigration critic, welcomed the new visa and the increased intake of parents and grandparents. But he added that the best way to overcome all of the backlogs in the immigration system would be to increase the intake from about 250,000 a year to about 330,000, or 1 per cent of the population.

“We’re not saying this for compassionate, fuzzy-wuzzy, lefty” reasons, Mr. Davies said. Increasing immigration levels are necessary to meet future labour shortages brought on by an aging society, he maintained.

Friday’s announcement caps a week of new initiatives by the Conservative government that focus on increasing the number of highly skilled and highly educated immigrants coming to Canada. Overall, however, family-class immigrants continue to make up about 65 per cent of all applicants.


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