COMMONS

Border Agency continues to fail

04 November 2011

Foreign National Prisoners
In a report published today, the Home Affairs Committee criticises the UK Border Agency for failing to explain why 350 foreign national prisoners due to be deported are still in the country. The Agency provided the Committee with a breakdown of the issues with the deportation process of 1,300 prisoners who were released between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011. The largest group, making up 27% of the total, was labelled ‘unknown’.

Legacy cases
The Committee also found that the Agency has not resolved all of the asylum ‘legacy’ cases first identified in 2006 within the promised 5 year timeframe. Instead, 18,000 ongoing cases are still awaiting a final decision.

Lost applicants
The Committee also highlighted its concern at the dramatic increase in files transferred to the “controlled archive” in the past six months. The files, which are placed in the archive when every effort to track an applicant has been exhausted, numbered 40,500 in March 2011. By September 2011, it had increased to 124,000. The Committee has recommended that guidance be produced on the management of the controlled archive and has stated with conviction that any further rise in the number of files transferred to the archive will be considered a failing on the part of the Agency.

Use of intelligence
The Committee also criticises the Agency for its inability to disclose how many individuals were removed from the country due to intelligence provided by members of the public. The Committee emphasises the importance of intelligence provided to the Agency in stopping abuse of the system, but warns that unless the public can see that the Agency uses the intelligence provided, it will simply lead to further public frustration with the immigration system as a whole.

Language and terminology
The Committee objects to the Agency’s use of the euphemistic term “controlled archive” to describe the applicants with whom it has lost contact. It would be more appropriate to describe it as the archive of lost applicants. The Committee is also surprised by its claim that the UK Border Agency does not recognise the term “bogus college” given the Home Office released a press notice earlier this week which focussed on colleges which had their licences revoked, some of which were described as ‘bogus’.

Recommendations
The Committee makes a series of specific recommendations aimed at improving the working of the Agency:
• The Government should commission a detailed investigation into financial waste, included the writing-off of bad debts, overpayments to staff and asylum applicants, and failure to collect civil penalties.
• There should be better liaison between the Agency and HM Prison Service to ensure that foreign national prisoners are deported, where appropriate, rather than released into the community.
• The Agency is losing too many appeals at immigration tribunals. It should raise the quality of its representation and commit to being represented at every hearing so that the case for refusal can properly be made.
• The Agency needs to ensure that all their staff are aware of the existence of “bogus colleges”, which exist only to sponsor visa applications.

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:

“The UK Border Agency is still not providing the efficient, effective service that Parliament expects.

 

The so-called ‘controlled archive’ has become a dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant. From 18,000 files last November, it has now grown to 124,000—the equivalent of the population of Cambridge.

 

The Prime Minister himself recently called for members of the public to provide intelligence on immigrants. 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. A fit for purpose immigration system needs to keep track of applicants rather than allowing them to go missing."

Further Information
About Parliament: Select Committees
Topics: Asylum, Immigration and Nationality

Image: iStockphoto

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