The Home Affairs Select Committee monitors the Border Agency on a four monthly basis as the most effective means of scrutinising its work on behalf of Parliament. It gives the Agency a series of key indicators. Its latest report covers the period December 2011 - March 2012.
For the first time the Committee has collated the backlog of outstanding cases in the areas where the Agency deals with casework. The Report criticises the Agency for failing to conclude the total backlog of 276,460 cases. This includes 150,000 individuals in the migration refusal pool which the Committee was extremely disturbed to hear about for the first time. The Committee finds it totally unacceptable that there are so many outstanding cases that the Agency has yet to work through.
It calls on the Border Agency to act immediately to identify ways to locate these individuals and conclude these cases.
Foreign National Prisoners
The Committee highlighted the 3900 foreign national prisoners currently living in the community. The Committee found that it took on average 74 days to remove a foreign national offender in 2011 after their sentence came to an end. The Committee criticises the Agency for failing to work with National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to ensure deportation proceedings begin at the time of sentencing. The Committee welcomes the Government's decision to provide clear guidance for cases dealt with under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and expects to see this drive up the proportion of foreign offenders that the Agency is able to deport. The Committee also called on the Government to publish a list of countries which refuse to accept the return of their own criminals.
101,500 cases, related to people who still cannot be located, were in the controlled archive on the 31 March 2012. The Committee welcomes the reduction of 13,000 asylum cases and 500 immigration cases in the controlled archive. The Committee however noted that 59% of the original asylum legacy cases resolved to date were given leave to remain.
New asylum cases
The Committee highlighted its concern that a large number of cases will remain outstanding for years at the current rate of asylum case conclusion – 63% in 12 months. This may lead to a new backlog. The Agency seems unprepared to allow the Committee to track how quickly it provides initial decision on asylum cases.
New immigration rules
The Committee expresses concern that the changes to the family route may have precipitated an increase in applications before the changes come into force. This may lead to more resources being concentrated in some areas at the expense of backlogs building up in others.
Immigration appeals system
The Committee is concerned that the Government is aiming to reduce the volume of appeals through closing off the most widely-used route of appeal, Family Visit Visas. They represent 40% of the overall total of appeals. It calls on the Government to instigate a drive to improve initial casework decisions and guidance instead of closing off the route and proposes that the Agency should also make refusal notices clear and simple and list specific documents that they require in order to grant an application.
The Committee recommends that significant improvement is needed in a number of key areas:
- The Agency must set up a team to examine why the 3,900 foreign national offenders living in the community as of 4 April have not been deported.
- Deportation proceedings for foreign national prisoners must begin at the time of sentencing.
- The Government must immediately publish a list of those countries refusing to accept the return of their own criminals who have committed offences in the UK. This list should be updated every 6 months.
- The Agency should expand its checks to include a wider range of databases in order to assist with tracing of those in the controlled archive.
- Students should be removed from net migration target.
- Face to face interviews for all foreign students must be compulsory.
- The Agency must be represented at 100%, not 84%, of all tribunal hearings.
- Currently 37% of post-licence Tier 4 sponsor visits were unannounced. All inspection visits on Tier 4 must be unannounced.
- 25,600 allegations about possible illegal immigrants have been received. 4% resulted in an enforcement visit. The Agency must inform the informant of the outcome of their tip-off and provide a breakdown of the outcomes of its enforcement visits.
The Committee's previous report stated that the senior Agency staff should not receive bonuses as the Agency’s performance was still poor overall. Despite a reduction in the number of staff receiving bonuses, 24% of them still did in 2010/11. The Committee reiterates that Senior Agency staff should not receive bonuses until the Agency's performance improves and bonuses paid in the past contrary to the Committee’s recommendations should be repaid.
Comments from the Chair
Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"This is the first time that the Committee has collated all the cases at the UK Border Agency that await resolution. This backlog is now equivalent to the entire population of Newcastle upon Tyne. It will take years to clear.
The Agency seems to have acquired its own Bermuda triangle. It’s easy to get in, but near impossible to keep track of anyone, let alone get them out.
The Committee is very disappointed that the national allegations database is being delayed until September, nearly a year since the Prime Minister called on members of public to report suspected illegal immigrants. The Agency needs to have the databases and processes in place to identify bogus migrants and remove them quickly. We feel that 100% of the visits made by the Agency should be unannounced in respect of bogus college
Senior officials at the UK Border Agency continue to receive bonuses. The Committee reiterates its recommendations made last year that bonuses should not be paid to senior staff until this organisation carries out the intentions of Parliament. Those who have received bonuses since that time must return them"