Border Agency misled Committee over controlled archives

25 March 2013

The Home Affairs Committee published its Report on 'The Work of the UK Border Agency July–September 2012' on Monday 25 March 2013.

The Committee finds that:

Asylum and immigration controlled archives

  • For 6 years the Agency repeatedly supplied it with incorrect information about the size of the asylum backlog and the checks being carried out to try and trace applicants in the controlled archives.
  • The Agency has wrongly concluded that not being able to trace an applicant means that they are not in the UK. Regular checks to try and find applicants were not carried out over a significant time period and the final tracing programme was rushed. There could therefore be thousands of people in the UK whose applications remain in the closed archives but whom the Agency have not been able to trace.
  • Lin Homer, who was in charge of the Agency for much of the period in question, has repeatedly misled the Committee over the size of the asylum backlog and still refuses to take responsibility for her failings. This Committee has little confidence in her ability to run any government department and her appointment to head up HMRC highlights the need for Parliament to have a stronger role in the appointment of top civil servants.

An Agency plagued by backlogs

  • Four new types of backlog came to light in Quarter 3 2012[1], this took the total number of cases in a backlog to 312,726. This is a decline of only 4% from the previous quarter despite the  95,000 cases in the controlled archives being closed.   We cannot be sure that this is even the whole picture, the Agency has not, to date been open with us about its backlog.

No. of cases Q2 No. of cases Q3 Difference % increase or decrease since Q2 2012
'Live' asylum cohort 25,500 28,500 +3,000 +12%
Asylum controlled archive 74,000 0 -74,000 -100%

Live immigration cases

Immigration controlled archive









FNOs living in the community 3,954 3,980 +26 +4%
FNOs - untraced 50 47 -3 +1%
Migration refusal pool 174,057 181,541 +7,484 +6%
FLTR applications not processed within targets 23,095 28,558 +5,463 +24%
No. of cases still to be loaded on CID Unknown 59,000 +59,000 Unknown
FLTR on the basis of marriage or civil partnership - cases pending review Unknown 14,000 +14,000 Unknown
FLTR on the basis of marriage or civil partnership - cases pending initial decision Unknown 2,100 +2,100 Unknown
TOTAL 325,156 321,726 3,430 -1%

[1] Highlighted in bold in the table below
[2] The asylum and immigration controlled archives were closed in Q4 2012

Chair's comments

Committee Chair Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP said:

"Successive UKBA Chief Executives have presided over chaos including 150 boxes of unopened mail, 100,000 unopened letters and yet another effective amnesty for thousands due to calamitous inefficiency.

For six years the Committee was misled by UKBA Chiefs about the agency's unacceptable performance. It appears more like the scene of a Whitehall farce then a Government agency operating in the 21st Century.

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. We were astonished to discover that MPs and applicants had been writing about cases yet 59,000 applications had not even been loaded onto the Agency's computers. 

We are worried that given UKBA's poor record of being transparent with the Committee, the delays we know about could only be the tip of the iceberg. UKBA must publish a definitive list of all its backlogs and senior staff should not receive any bonuses until the backlogs are cleared."

Further information

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