COMMONS

Government risks immigrant controls being sidestepped

21 March 2014

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its report on the work of the Immigration Directorates.

The Home Affairs Committee has today published its report on the work of the Immigration Directorates, covering the period from April to September 2013. This report continues our previous assessment of the performance of the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Committee findings

The Committee found that:

Romanians and Bulgarians

  • The Government did not commission an estimate of the number of Romanians and Bulgarians likely to come to the UK after 1 January 2014. We believe this decision to have been a mistake. The Committee has seen no evidence to suggest that there has been a discernible increase in migration from Romania and Bulgaria.
  • The Chair of the Migration Advisory Authority told us that if he had been asked to produce such an estimate, then he would have been happy to do so because “that is the role of the Migration Advisory Committee”. We have said that, for any future enlargements, the Migration Advisory Committee should be tasked by the Government to provide an estimate of the numbers arriving in our country. If the Government refuses to task the Migration Advisory Committee to commission estimates, we will write to ask them to do this.

Selling citizenship

  • The Government are considering proposals to change the Tier 1 Investor route, following the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee, that could result in the UK selling settlement by auction, with little apparent ability to carry out due diligence on the individual, no expectation to learn English, and only require them to actually reside in the UK for 90 days a year. This process is riddled with difficulties and combined with the reduction in standards required of those gaining citizenship, will be a recipe for disaster.

Borders

  • The verdict, by Judge Richard Bray, in the Baksim Bushati case described UK’s defences to illegal immigration to be "leaking like a sieve" and Border Force as "powerless" and as "hopelessly undermanned". The establishment of full checks on entry and exit remains an issue. There is a real possibility that dangerous criminals may have been able to enter the UK without the knowledge of the authorities. The Home Office needs to publish its list of co-operation agreements with all other countries to enable convictions to be shared and take action to be taken to close the gaps in the checking process.

Migration Refusal Pool and Capita

  • The Migration Refusal Pool remains a serious concern to the Committee. Capita have found over 34,000 cases where the person has left the UK. Apart from the fact that we have system where the Home Office cannot know where over 30,000 people are, we then pay a private company, Capita, to clarify that they have left. Capita appear to get paid for just finding out they aren’t here, not actively having to do anything to remove them. The Committee cannot understand why this work could not have been undertaken by the Home Office directly.

Chair's comments

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

“The numbers coming from Bulgaria and Romania since the end of transitional controls appear rather more a trickle than a flood. The Government’s failure to commission an estimate of these numbers has led to unnecessary anti-immigrant prejudice and is a blot on our tolerant society. It is essential that for future enlargement of the EU the Government commission research on the impact of migration to the UK. If they do not do so, the Committee will.

The Government must not sell citizenship to the highest bidder. This method has considerable benefits for the applicant but brings little benefit to the UK. We fail to see how this fits in with the Government’s desire for the UK to attract only the ‘brightest and the best’. The lack of due diligence on individuals is a recipe for disaster. Those who seek to acquire British citizenship should be fit and proper.

The Warnings Index and our borders controls are still not fit for purpose and there is a real possibility that dangerous criminals have been able to enter the UK without the authorities knowing. We cannot permit this to continue and allow our borders to remain under-policed.”

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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