A private services company, Capita has won a government US-style ‘bounty hunting’ contract to help find and remove more than 150,000 migrants who have overstayed their visas, it has been revealed by the BBC today.
UK Border Agency Chief Executive Rob Whiteman told MPs that the ‘payment-by-results’ deal will cost the taxpayer up to £40m.
However, Whiteman was unable to tell MPs exactly what target the company had been set for removals of visa overstayers.
The 174,000 have been denied permission to stay in the UK but have gone missing.
The existence of this backlog – dubbed the “migration refusal pool” – was revealed in July when the new chief inspector of immigration, John Vine, discovered it during his first inspection of a local immigration team, when it stood at 150,000. Since then it has grown to 174,000 people, the home affairs committee was told.
Previous Immigration Minister Damian Green promised that the pool, which dates back to 2008 when officials began counting it, would be cleared ‘quite quickly’.
But Mr Whiteman said it would never be entirely cleared as it was constantly being added to by people denied the right to remain in the UK.
“It could not be zero, otherwise it would mean we are not doing any work,” Mr Whiteman told the home affairs committee.
He said Capita, who beat three other companies including Serco to the contract, would be paid by results – but rejected a suggestion by Mr Vaz that the company would be “laughing all the way to the bank” after apparently being awarded a contract with no performance targets.
“Capita will be paid for the number of people they make contact with, and leave, and that’s purely on a payment by results basis. If nobody leaves because they make contact with them, nobody will get paid.”
He added: “The potential value of the contract if they perform very well over a four year period would be £40m.”
He told MPs that 20% of missing migrants left the country within six months of being contacted during a pilot project – and that Capita would not solely be in charge of removals.
But he also revealed that he did not know how many of the 174,000 missing illegal immigrants had returned to their country and how many still remained in the UK, adding: “We have to do the work.”
But he said he wanted to redirect more staff into enforcement to increase removals from its current level of 40,000 people a year.
Labour called for greater transparency over the contract with Capita, which describes itself as the leading provider of outsourced services to central government, including the administration of public sector pensions and, with ATOS, the controversial £540m disability benefit testing regime.
Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said: “The whole point of a payment by results contract is that you define success for it before it starts.
“UK Border Agency has revealed that Capita will get £40m from the taxpayer if meets its targets, but UKBA doesn’t seem to have any idea of what would constitute a success.
“In a time of austerity, the UKBA and the home secretary should be able to demonstrate that they are providing value of money to the taxpayer.
“The details of the contract and the tender process should be as transparent as possible; and at the very least, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency should be in a position to define what exactly a successful programme by Capita would look like. I urge the home secretary to provide the public with the details.”
In other evidence to the home affairs committee, Mr Whiteman revealed that 26 charter flights carrying asylum seekers last year had more immigration staff on board than deportees.
He said this figure was down from 40, four years ago and, while accepting more savings could be made, he said removing “disruptive” asylum seekers was sometimes extremely difficult and took two or three attempts.
He also defended £25,000 of bonuses given to senior managers at the UK Border Agency this year, saying it was in line with civil service pay rules. He said he had turned down his own bonus due to the poor performance of the organisation in not clearing backlogs.
Mr Vaz said his committee “do not think it acceptable that people should given bonuses… until this organisation is fit for purpose”. Source: BBC.
The move to use private contractors to sort out the mess follows widespread staff cuts in the UKBA.
Bounty hunters are still used in America to hunt down people who have jumped bail in a tradition going back to the ‘wild west’ days.
But private security firms are rarely used in the UK to carry out law enforcement duties normally considered the job of government appointed border and police officers.
One wonders what type of vetting by profit motivated private firms will take place before security staff are let loose.
Immigration Matters recently reported that a private security firm contracted for the Olympic Games was found to be employing illegal immigrants.
The terms of the contact are that Capita gets paid once the overstayer has been found and removed. Whilst finding and removing visa overstayers might appear to be a straightforward process, in practice things are not so simple.
For instance, the students could be in a relationship with a UK or EEA national, or have a child.
Appeals and pllications may be lodged which will delay removal for several months, during which time a person may simply disappear into the system along with an estimated 500,000 -700,000 other illegal immigrants.
The Home Office does not have an accurate system for ‘counting-in and counting-out’ the millions of people who arrive in the UK on Tier 4 student visas, tourist visas or as dependants, which makes it almost impossible to know how many people have overtstayed in the first place.
Immigration Advisers Bison Management has helped overstayers and many companies avoid a £10,000 fine by carrying out immigration audits on all staff files. Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker said:
‘Busy managers and owners are not always aware of the ever changing Immigration Rules on Tier 2 working visas, student visas, dependant visas and EU workers from Bulgaria and Romania who need permission to work.
‘Student visa rules on working hours and dependant’s entitlement to work have changed and many students or their dependants are working illegally because the employer has not bothered to check their visas.
‘My advice is to call in a professional to do a complete audit on all staff files before the UKBA walks in and does it for you.’
Employers, especially those who employ migrant workers on working or student visas, must have a system in place to check entitlement to work and monitor visa expiry dates, as the government is targeting illegal working.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org