Bringing the UK Border Agency to heel has been one of the mammoth tasks facing ministers since the coalition formed. Ministers have recently been rather keen to suggest that backlogs in claims and migrants disappearing without a trace were coming under control – Immigration Minister Damian Green said at the start of this month that ‘we have gripped it and dealt with’ the problem of people overstaying their visa, for instance.
But lest senior staff at the UK Border Agency were starting to pat themselves on the back for a good job well done, the Home Affairs Select Committee has released a damning report this morning which says performance is still so poor that not only should they continue to forgo their bonuses, but that the Agency should also pay back any past bonuses paid contrary to previous recommendations from MPs.
The key figure behind this verdict is a 276,460-strong backlog of outstanding cases that the Committee discovered. This group of people, ‘equivalent to the entire population of Newcastle upon Tyne’, has disappeared into a ‘Bermuda Triangle’, according to committee chair Keith Vaz. Here is the breakdown of that backlog:
21,000 live asylum cohort
80,000 asylum controlled archive (where applicants cannot be traced)
21,500 immigration controlled archive (where applicants cannot be traced)
3,900 foreign national offenders living in the community
60 foreign national offenders – untraced
150,000 migration refusal pool
The biggest figure in that list is also the most worrying as the committee had not been notified of the backlog in the migration refusal pool – those people refused the right to stay in the UK. The report says the committee was ‘extremely disturbed to hear that there is yet another large group of individuals who the agency are unable to account for’.
Here are some other unpleasant figures cited in the report:
3,900 foreign national offenders in total are living in the community as of 4 April whilst the agency tries to deport them.
74 days was the average length of time it took to remove a foreign national offender in 2011 after their sentence came to an end.
57 of the foreign national offenders released in 2006 without being considered for deportation are still untraced as of 3 April 2012.
There are 3,900 foreign offenders subject to deportation living in the community, and 63 per cent of these cases are over two years old, as the graph below shows:
The Home Office’s response this morning has been that the committee raises ‘legitimate concerns’ about issues it is already tackling at the UKBA, pointing to the acknowledgement that the agency is improving the way it tackles the backlog. The MPs have also welcomed the decision to limit the rights of offenders to use article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to oppose deportation.
But the report also warns that clearing the backlog will take years, and that the UKBA may not currently have sufficient resources to do this effectively. Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant has warned this morning that cutting 5,000 staff from the UKBA shows the government is ‘failing to take illegal immigration seriously’.Tags: Immigration, UK politics, UKBA