UK Border Agency immigration backlog hits record

Published: 12/11/2012

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee currently looking into the problems within the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has spoken out about the huge backlog of pending immigration cases, which are up by an astonishing 25,000 since the last report was compiled. This brings the current number of cases outstanding to in excess of 300,000 – the population of Iceland.
Mr. Vaz likened looking into the affairs of the UK Border Agency to ‘falling through the Looking Glass’ and finding yet more backlogs wherever you turn. His concerns are many, but most urgently in need of addressing are the huge numbers of immigrants who are released from immigration detention centres every year and who then effectively go missing. Concerns that cases of illegal immigrants who have not been deported from the UK are written off, creating a virtual amnesty and allowing de facto permanent residence in the UK have been refuted by a spokesman from the UK Borders Agency, who assured reporters that there was ‘no question of an amnesty’.
This rather begs the question of how in that case the agency proposes to deal with a backlog which is growing by 10% a quarter. The ‘migration refusal pool’ which is made up of people who should not be in the UK but can no longer be traced, now stands at 174,000 and there is no simple way to reduce that number. There are 95,000 cases which the UK Border Agency have promised to close before the end of 2012, but they only managed to close 29,000 cases from the archive in a whole year, so that aim seems impossible to meet.
The problem with growing backlogs is not getting any simpler to solve and has a knock-on effect on legitimate applicants. At the moment, postal further leave to remain FLR(m) applications submitted by spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners of British Citizens and legal permanent residents are taking the UK Border Agency between eight and ten months to process. Clearly, this is unacceptable and many of the legitimate claims being made today and which are currently caught in backlogs could take even longer to be decided.
The Select Committee has raised a serious point, which has received no real answer from the UK Border Agency representative. ‘The closure of the controlled archives may result in a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case,’ the MPs said. In an attempt to reduce backlog numbers, there is a very real fear that genuine asylum seekers could be removed, simply to reduce numbers with no one having the time to properly look into individual cases any more.
Keith Vaz’s opinion that the problem is ‘spiraling out of control’ seems valid, in that the numbers are growing at an alarming rate. Mark Harper, the immigration minister, said, ‘This report raises some legitimate concerns but we are taking robust action and it is working.’ By the time of the next report to the Select Committee, hopefully the numbers will have reduced, but no one seems to be able to say how that might be made to happen.



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