COMMONS

Home Office still failing to get to grips with backlogs

08 November 2013

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its final report on the work of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), covering the period from January to March 2013.

The Committee will continue to monitor the work of the new Directorates of the Immigration Service on a three-monthly basis.

Findings

UKBA backlogs still at 432,000

  • The Border Agency backlogs, by the time it was wound up, had fallen to 432,000. However, most of the 70,400 reduction was achieved by simply loading pending cases onto the computer, and in some categories—such as those applying for further leave to remain on the basis of marriage or civil partnership—the backlog had actually grown.

Concern about vulnerable people in Immigration Bill

  • The Committee has no objection in principle to the introduction of a charge for access to the National Health Service for those who are in the UK only temporarily and would therefore not otherwise be making a long-term contribution to the NHS. But it expresses concerns about the possible application of the scheme to vulnerable people who have been trafficked into the country and recommends that the Government should pilot an alternative option for visa applicants to take out private health insurance instead.

Welcome scrapping of immigration vans

  • The Committee welcomes the scrapping of the immigration AdVans campaign. It makes perfect sense to encourage those who are in the UK illegally to leave of their own volition, and to provide them where necessary with practical support to do so. It is the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants from the country and provides good value for money for the taxpayer. A more effective and less menacing message would be that the Government is willing and able to support those who are here illegally to return home if they want to. Tough enforcement action should be taken against those who are determined to remain here illegally, but for the target audience of potential voluntary returners, the effectiveness of the carrot is potentially undermined by the ostentatious brandishing of the stick.

Chair's comment

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said:

"There are still over 430,000 cases languishing in the backlogs, enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost 5 times over. As we have said on numerous occasions, the backlogs must be cleared as a matter of priority, only then will the Home Office be able to tackle the deeper problems in the immigration system.

This has been a chaotic summer for immigration policy. First we had the controversial AdVans which were rightly ridiculed, and then it was revealed that Capita had botched the contract to clear the migration refusal pool by asking British citizens to leave their own country. Finally we saw a U-turn on visa bonds, however the uncertainty has already done damage.

If the Government wants to get tough on illegal immigrants it needs to take effective action. When people make allegations about those here illegally the Home Office must act. Currently only 6 in 100 reports of illegal immigrants result in an actual investigation and only 1.5 in 100 result in removal. This is a very poor record and does not give confidence to those who go out of their way to help the Home Office."

Further information

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