Thousands of unprocessed applications were reportedly found at the UKBA's Sheffield office.
24 January 2013
Chief inspector unearths new UK immigration backlog
Independent Chief Inspector of Immigration John Vine has reported a fresh backlog of UK immigration cases - over 16,000 - with some dating back almost a decade.
Mr Vine caused outrage several times in 2012 when his inspections revealed extensive backlogs at the much-maligned UK Border Agency (UKBA), including 150,000 unresolved cases and over 100,000 pieces of unopened mail.
And now, in his latest report, Mr Vine said his inspection team had found over 14,000 cases of requests to reconsider failed UK visa applications as well as over 2,000 cases of 'complex' temporary migration cases - some of which date back to 2003.
An inspector in Mr Vine's team said the unresolved cases had effectively been 'dumped' on the UKBA's Sheffield office when facilities were transferred there from Croydon; Mr Vine said these cases had since been dealt with.
However, the chief inspector said the backlog was growing at a rate of 700 new cases a month at the time of his inspection last year in an 'unacceptable' situation which many of the agency's staff weren't even aware of.
Caseworkers had reportedly been told to advise clients that their cases could not be dealt with until they had received new policy guidance.
"I don't think I should be discovering these backlogs," said Mr Vine. "The agency should know about its workload. It should prioritise its resources and, at the very least, have a plan to deal with some of the things that we come across in inspection.
"For people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards."
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said the border agency was not a 'shambles' and many of the cases in the chief inspector's report had since been dealt with.
"We inherited an agency which had a lot of problems; we've got a new management team to deal with. They're getting a grip and dealing with it," the minister told Radio 4's Today Programme.
The minister said many of the 14,000 cases of reconsider requests were people 'who didn't like the [rejection] decision and didn't go through the proper appeal mechanism'.
"And what the Border Agency should have said in the past, it should have said 'no, there's an appeal process, if you don't like the decision, appeal'.
"But it didn't do that, it kind of accepted these requests and didn't have a process to deal with them."
Mr Harper said the agency had since put policies in place to deal with backlogs.
"We have now got a clear policy, published, about the way we deal with those which is people should appeal properly and those people who have been refused are not allowed to stay here. Should leave the country and we will be taking steps to make sure that they do."
Labour's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant, said the report was further evidence of the Home Secretary Theresa May's poor management of the Home Office.
"Yet again the Independent Chief Inspector has condemned Theresa May’s management of the UK Border Agency for inconsistency, inaccuracy and delay and for not even having a policy to deal with a backlog of 14,000 immigration cases, which has been growing by 700 cases a month under this Government," said Mr Bryant.
"In recent months we have learnt of files left unopened, letters left unanswered, hundreds of original decisions being overturned on appeal and applicants coming to Britain who did not prove they could support themselves. It all adds up to delay, confusion and a massive waste of taxpayers’ money."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.