09 November 2012

Home Affairs Select Committee slams UK immigration backlog

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In its latest report on the workings of the UK Border Agency, the Commons Home Affairs Committee has criticised the number of still unresolved UK immigration cases and the agency's attempts to clear the backlog could result in granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

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Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz MP says the UK immigration backlog is 'like falling through the looking glass'.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee, said the backlog now stood at 302,000 - a 25,000 increase in the past three months alone - and efforts to tackle the UK immigration backlog were legislative workarounds tantamount to granting thousands of illegal immigrants amnesty.

The existence of any backlog was only uncovered earlier this year by Chief Inspector John Vine and MPs have been shocked by the number of cases sorted in categories such as 'migration refusal pool' - where individuals have been refused a UK visa but whose whereabouts are unknown.

The current backlog includes over 25,000 asylum cases, over 20,000 cases in the 'controlled archive' and almost 175,000 cases in the migration refusal pool, as well as 53 untraced former foreign prisoners.

The UKBA has pledged to close the 'controlled archive' by the end of the year but the committee expressed concern that this could be considered amnesty to those in the country illegally who have avoided detection for long enough.

"Entering the world of the UKBA is like falling through the looking glass. The closer we look, the more backlogs we find, their existence obscured by opaque names such as the 'migration refusal pool' and the 'controlled archive'," said Mr Vaz.

"UKBA must adopt a transparent and robust approach to tackling this problem instead of creating new ways of camouflaging backlogs."

Immigration Minister Mark Harper disputed the committee's claims, maintaining that the Government was 'taking action' against those in the country illegally by making it harder to live illegally.

"We are tracking people down and taking against them," said the minister. "We are restricting access to benefits, free healthcare and financial products and businesses can be fined up to £10,000 for every illegal worker they employ."

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the backlog clearly needs more attention before it can become an embarrassment to both the UKBA and the Government.

"The Government are very publicly trying to reduce immigration to the UK by making it harder for legitimate migrants to come," said Ms Murdock.

"Salary thresholds have been added and rights removed yet, all the while there are literally of thousands of people who can clearly quite easily remain under the radar and both the UKBA and the Government need to keep working to address this."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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