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MPs call on Home Office to take direct responsibility for Borders 'Agency'
Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Wednesday 11 Apr 2012 @ 15:10
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In the Home Affairs Committee's third report of the year into the Work of the UK Border Agency, it criticises the 'Agency' for failing to deport more than 600 Foreign National Prisoners who were released between 1999 and 2006 are still in the country and for failing to clear the ever increasing "controlled archive". At the current rate it will take a further 4 years to close all cases. 
 
It calls on for the Home Office to act immediately to deal with the public scepticism in the effectiveness of the UK Border Agency and to require clarity in the information it produces for both the public and Parliament.

Foreign National Prisoners

The Committee criticises the UK Border Agency for failing to deport more than 600 of the 1,013 Foreign National Prisoners who were released without being considered for deportation between 1999 and 2006. The Committee also highlighted the confusion surrounding the circumstances of the 520 Foreign National Prisoners, released in 2010–11, who have been allowed to remain in the country.

Legacy cases

The Committee found that the Agency has still not resolved all of the asylum 'legacy' cases first identified in 2006. Instead, there are 17,000 ongoing cases still awaiting a final decision and the Agency appears to be discovering more cases. When first announced in 2006, the backlog was estimated at 400,000-450,000. The true figure was 502,000 cases.

Lost applicants

The Committee highlighted its concern at the size of the "controlled archive" which has only been reduced by 5000 files since our last report in November 2011. There are now 119,000 files placed in the archive where every effort to track an applicant has been exhausted. Therefore at the present rate of resolution, it will take 4 years to close the archive.

'Lille loophole'

The Committee finds it unacceptable that the 'Lille loophole' situation only appeared to be resolved following public discussion and intervention from the Committee. Border security is paramount, especially this close to the Olympics, and the Committee is expecting receive regular updates on the situation.

IRIS Scanners

The £9.1m cost of the Iris Scanners, which are being closed down only 5 years after their introduction, should not be repeated. The Committee recommends the Agency publish data collected on e-Gates trials to ensure it does not suffer the same costly investment in equipment which will not last.

E-Borders

The Committee remains uncertain over the feasibility of the Government’s e-borders timetable. It finds it difficult to see how the scheme can be applied to all rail and sea passengers by December 2014. It acknowledges that the Government must have a comprehensive e-border system if it is to be effective. However, it needs clarity on policy and practicalities for achieving this.

Recommendations

The Committee makes a series of specific recommendations aimed at improving the working of the Agency:

  • The 'Agency' is still losing almost half of the appeals brought against it. Systems must be put in place to improve the 'Agency's' appeal figures
  • It is unacceptable that the 'Agency' refuses to recognise the term 'Bogus Colleges' and that it makes half of its inspections announced. The UK Border Agency must make all inspection visits to Tier 4 sponsors unannounced
  • The Agency should as a matter of routine, begin working to establish the identities of Foreign National Prisoners, and ensure that they have the necessary travel documentation, as soon as they are sentenced
  • The data provided to the Committee was at best, described as confusing and at worst, misleading. The Agency is an integral part of the Home Office and is not a separate ‘Agency’ with separate systems of accountability
  • The Committee expect to hear from the Permanent Secretary how she intends to clear up the use of statistics within the Department

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

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

The Foreign National Prisoner issue and the Asylum backlog were scandals which first broke in 2006, 6 years ago. UKBA appears unable to focus on its key task of tracking and removing illegal immigrants, overstayers or bogus students from the country.

The so-called 'controlled archive', the dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant, will take a further 4 years to clear at the current rate of resolution. This is unacceptable.

Following the Border Controls saga we now have two agencies instead of one. We are hopeful that the UKBA will now concentrate fully on the issues that are causing so much concern to the public and to Parliament."

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