22 November 2012

Chief inspector slams Border Agency over UK immigration backlog

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John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, has criticised the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for its mishandling of an extensive backlog of UK immigration, asylum and residency applications and for misleading MPs over the progress of reducing it.

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Mr Vine said he had found significant failings in the way the UK Border Agency was attempting to clear an extensive UK immigration backlog.

Mr Vine said he has found significant failings in the agency's handling of the UK immigration backlog, including unresolved cases dating back to 1995 and 150 boxes of mail containing over 100,000 pieces of unopened mail.

However, Mr Vine said the most damning factor was the misleading of MPs regarding the backlog's process. UKBA officials assured Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee cases were only archived after 'exhaustive checks' to find applicants had been made.

"Updates given by the agency to Parliament in the summer of 2011, stating that the legacy of unresolved asylum cases was resolved, were inaccurate. In fact, the programme of legacy work is far from resolved," said the chief inspector.

"On the evidence, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that cases were placed in the archive after only very minimal work in order to fulfil the pledge to conclude this work by the summer of 2011."

Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the chief inspector's report was 'devastating' for the UKBA.

"To mislead a committee of the house is an extremely serious matter," said Mr Vaz. "Those same officials who came before the committee have all received bonuses. On the basis of this report they should hand them back immediately."

Chris Bryant, shadow immigration minister, said the report is 'utterly damning' news for the Home Secretary Theresa May and the Conservative-led coalition Government's attempts to reduce migration to the UK.

"[The Home Secretary] must explain why her staff have been so slapdash in their attempts to track down failed asylum seekers," said Mr Bryant. "She cannot hide behind others. This has happened on her watch.

"The Tory-led Government made big promises on immigration and changing the UKBA. But quite simply the UKBA and the split-off Border Force are getting worse and worse."

A spokesperson for the Home Office acknowledged that the backlog was 'unacceptable' but insisted progress was being made.

"We have known for some time that UKBA is a troubled organisation with a poor record of delivery," said the spokesperson.

"Turning the agency around will take time, but we are making progress."


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