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Home Affairs Committee publishes report on UK Border Agency

In a brief report, the Home Affairs Committee highlights a number of areas where the UK Border Agency is not meeting the standards which both those using its services and the general public have the right to expect.

In particular, the committee singles out the continuing threat of delays and backlogs in processing asylum applications, which it attributes at least in part to inadequate decision-making in the first instance.

ontinuing the practice of its predecessor committee, the Home Affairs Committee regularly reviews the work of the UK Border Agency in a number of key areas: dealing with new claims of asylum, clearing the historic backlog of asylum cases, deporting Foreign National Prisoners, moves to end the detention of children for the purpose of removal from the UK, and the information on individual cases provided to Members of Parliament.

Points made by the committee

The committee:

  • Reiterates its predecessors’ recommendations about tightening up the registration and  inspection of colleges in order to close down bogus institutions established chiefly to enable people to bypass the restrictions on work-related immigration to the UK; 
  • Raises concerns that the programme to clear the historic backlog of 400–450,000 asylum cases will end in July 2011 with the Agency having been unable to discover what has happened to the claimants in up to one in seven (61,000) of the cases;  
  • Notes that the passage of time means that the UK Border Agency  is unlikely to trace 70 of the 1013 Foreign National Prisoners whose release without deportation led to Mr Charles Clarke’s resignation as Home Secretary in 2005;
  • Raises concerns about the adequacy of the training and supervision of those involved in the enforced removal of unsuccessful asylum claimants. 
  • Notes the high salary paid to the outgoing head of the UK Border Agency— in excess of that paid to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office – and recommends that in the current economic situation a significantly lower salary should be paid to her successor.

The Committee Chair, Rt Hon Keith Vaz said:

"Much of the delay  in concluding asylum and other immigration cases stems from poor quality decision-making when the application is initially considered.

The UK Border Agency has made some  progress over the last few years in relation to new procedures and approaches, but is still failing to meet expectations. 

More consistent and rigorous scrutiny of applications would lead to fewer delays, fewer appeals, less uncertainty for the applicant, less pressure on the officials themselves, and probably lower costs for the UK taxpayer.  

This may well require greater investment in staff training. It is also likely to require more consistent and considered direction from those setting policy for the Agency than has sometimes been the case.

In the current climate we believe it is inappropriate for senior Home Office officials to receive any bonuses, We also believe that the new head of the UK Border Agency should not receive a salary greater than either the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office or the Prime Minister."

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