11 April 2012

Further UK immigration trouble as parliament report slams UKBA

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A parliamentary report published by the Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised UK immigration procedure by claiming the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is 'not fit for purpose'.

UK visa

The Home Affairs Select Committee's report claims the UKBA is not 'fit for purpose'.

The report claims that UK immigration policy is so unclear in its publishing of data that the UKBA's own chief executive, Rob Whiteman, had difficulty in understanding it.

"It is difficult to see how senior management and ministers can be confident that they know what is going on if the agency cannot be precise in the information it provides to this committee," said the report.

The report accused the UKBA as having a 'bunker mentality' which prevented it from fulfilling even its most basic tasks and had lead to suspicion over its reporting of figures.

"Confusion over figures only risks suspicion that the agency is attempting to mislead parliament and the public over its performance and effectiveness."

The much-maligned UKBA, formed in 2008, was split recently into the UKBA and the UK Border Force after the border fiasco which saw UK visa checks relaxed or even suspended for thousands of arrivals during peak times at British airports last summer.

The agency and the responsible governmental body, the Home Office, have come under increased scrutiny in recent months. The report, the third of the year, states that measures need to be taken to combat ineffectiveness and improve clarity.

"The only way the Home Office can allay and remove these fears is to clean up and clarify all the figures that are used in these reports."

The report recommended that Dame Helen Gosh, the permanent secretary to the Home Office, should make it known how she "intends to clean up the use of statistics within the department."

The report's main criticisms regarded the addressing of the finding and deporting of over 1,000 prisoners who were incorrectly released in 2006, a scandal that cost then Home Secretary Charles Clarke his job. Since then, less than 400 of the illegal immigrants have been removed or deported from the country.

Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, says these cases should have been resolved long ago and the Home Office's reputation could hinge upon the issue.

"The reputation of the Home Office, and by extension, the UK Government, is being tarnished by the inability of the UKBA to fulfil its basic functions."

Immigration Minister Damian Green defended the Government's progress with the UKBA, blaming its supposed ineffectiveness on the previous Labour government and claiming its efficiency is improving.

"At the same time as clearing up the mistakes of the past, we are taking the action necessary to ensure the same errors will not be allowed to happen in the future," said Mr Green.

"This Government has chosen to publish more information than ever before, information which members of the public and parliament can use to analyse our performance and hold us to account."

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