Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Incompetence and foot-dragging blamed as backlog of 320,000 migrant cases in Britain will take 24 years to clear

Border officials need 24 years to clear their backlog of 320,000 immigration cases, MPs warn today.  Incompetence and foot-dragging is blamed for the sheer number of claims – the equivalent of the population of Iceland.

In a blistering report, the Commons home affairs committee also said the army of foreign criminals on the streets was growing, with the total now almost 4,000.

The audit into the work of the UK Border Agency, which was dubbed not fit for purpose six years ago, found 321,726 outstanding cases involving immigrants.

These include 28,500 current asylum cases, 4,000 immigration cases and 181,541 people placed in a so-called Migration Refusal Pool.

The pool comprises migrants who arrived legally but cannot now be found after their work or study visas expired. Officials say many of the migrants will have gone home – a view disputed by the MPs, who say the lack of proper border checks may mean ‘tens of thousands’ are still here.

They are highly critical of the slow pace at which officials are clearing the backlog. Between July and September last year, it was reduced by only 3,430 – or 1 per cent.

This is despite officials writing off 74,000 cases held in the separate ‘asylum controlled archive’ over that period.  The controlled archive was created to hold what remains of Labour’s asylum backlog. It was intended to hold cases that had not been concluded, so they could be reopened if the person was traced.

UKBA officials had been tracking them down – but decided to abandon those they couldn’t find. Critics say it amounts to have an effective ‘amnesty’.

Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the home affairs committee, said hardly any progress was being made in clearing the backlog. He holds former UKBA chief executive Lin Homer – Britain’s most senior female mandarin – responsible for much of the debacle.

She is clinging to her job in charge of HM Revenue & Customs after MPs concluded she was guilty of a ‘catastrophic’ failure of leadership during her time at UKBA.

Mr Vaz said: ‘No sooner is one backlog closed, than four more are discovered.

‘At this rate it will take 24 years to clear the backlog which still stands at the size of the population of Iceland.’ Also within the backlog are 3,980 foreign criminals who cannot be deported and have been released on bail by the courts.  This has increased by 26 in only three months, despite repeated government promises to kick the offenders out. Six years ago the asylum backlog scandal prompted then home secretary John Reid to brand the immigration system ‘not fit for purpose’.

The committee recommends senior UKBA staff are not paid bonuses until there is evidence the backlog is being ‘substantially’ reduced and new backlogs are not emerging.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s home affairs spokesman, said: ‘This highly critical report shows that practical failings in the immigration system are getting worse.’

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: ‘We have always been clear the UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation with a poor record of delivery.

‘Turning it around will take time but I am determined to provide the public with an immigration system they can have confidence in.’

The Border Agency has awarded a £30million contract to outsourcing firm Capita to help track illegals. It began work in October.


Theresa May splits border agency to end 'secretive and defensive' culture

Britain's beleaguered immigration service is to be split in two and brought directly under ministers' control for the first time in five years, the Home Secretary announced today.

Theresa May said the UK Border Agency's performance was "still not good enough" and it would be split to end its "closed, secretive and defensive culture".

The unexpected move means immigration will be supervised by Home Office ministers rather than operating at arm's length under the control of a chief executive.

It comes seven years after John Reid, the then Labour home secretary, described the Home Office as "not fit for purpose" after an immigration scandal that led to the sacking of his predecessor.

"In keeping with the changes we made last year to Border Force, the Government is splitting up the UK Border Agency," Mrs May told the House of Commons.

"In its place will be an immigration and visa service and an immigration law enforcement organisation.

"UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm’s length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture.

"So I can tell the House that the new entities will not have agency status and will sit in the Home Office, reporting to ministers."

The announcement will leave the Coalition government open to allegations that it failed to get to grips with the UKBA's failings more quickly, as it comes just a year after the last reorganisation of the agency, and only a day after a scathing attack by MPs on its former boss, Lin Homer.

The all-party Home Affairs Select Committee said in a strongly-worded report yesterday that Ms Homer was responsible for a "catastrophic leadership failure".

MPs warned that it would take the UKBA 24 years to clear an immigration and asylum case backlog.

Mrs May said she hoped the changes would make it easier to cut backlogs and increase the number of illegal immigrants who are deported.


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