MPs disappointed at lack of progress at UK Border Agency

07 April 2010

In a report released today, the Home Affairs Committee reiterates its concerns about the work of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and notes with disappointment the lack of progress in resolving major problems

The report follows up on two areas of major concern the Committee has had with the work of the UKBA: the backlog of asylum cases – and the UKBA’s "unambitious" deadline for clearing it - and the e-borders programme, which the Committee reported earlier was probably unworkable under EU law.

In a session following up on the backlog of asylum cases the Chief Inspector of UKBA confirmed the Committee's fears that the historic caseload of asylum applications will not be cleared by the deadline and that a new backlog of cases is growing up.

The Committee also says that given the slow progress on the e-borders project, and the number of practical problems (some technical, others to do with a physical inability to send data) experienced by the aviation industry even during and after roll-out, it is sceptical about whether UKBA will be able to solve the remaining problems swiftly.

The Committee heard note that there is still the need for "a conversation with the Commission" to clarify what is required in order to make the programme comply with EU law on freedom of movement; and, despite the continuing negotiations, UKBA was unable to inform us of any specific progress on the national data protection issues with individual Member States.

The Committee still believes that the current timetable will be impossible to achieve, and it is still not clear whether all or some intra-EU travel will have to be omitted from the programme, either on freedom of movement or on national data protection grounds.

Keith Vaz MP said:

"Despite the assurances given by the Government in their responses to our original reports, the subsequent evidence we have received reinforces and, in some areas, increases the concerns we had about UKBA at the end of last year. None of these issues will be resolved within the next few months, and all will have a serious impact on thousands of people."

"We can see that the Government is convinced that the e-Borders project is vital to the security of the UK's borders, in terms of combating illegal immigration, serious crime and terrorism."

"We have now run out of time in this Parliament to see a resolution to these problems, but that so many major difficulties with the programme remain to be resolved causes us serious concern. We recommend our successor Committee keeps a close watching brief on this programme."

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