The newly-retired boss of Britain’s Border Agency has admitted that immigration to this country was out of control under Labour and politicians have no idea ‘who is here and who isn’t’, the Daily Mail reports.
Tony Smith, given a medal when he retired from the UK Border Force last month, blamed the problem not on his own department but on a surge of illegal immigrants who came to the country between 2000-2003.
He said: ‘There was a huge influx and frankly I don’t think we have ever recovered from that’.
Speaking as ministers attempted to tackle a backlog of 750,000 cases, Mr Smith said the problem began over a decade ago when immigrants flooded in.
He said that after they arrived, many then changed their names and were now undetectable by authorities.
In a forthright newspaper interview today, Mr Smith, who was awarded the CBE this year for the work he did on security at last summer’s Olympics, said it was difficult for border officials to cope with such a huge influx of people, adding: ‘There’s little you can do other than take their details and pass them on.’
The Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced the abolition of the Border Agency after five years of failure.
The agency behind a string of immigration scandals was cut in two and brought under Home Office control as Mrs May condemned the agency, set up under Labour, as suffering from a ‘closed, secretive and defensive culture’.
The Home Secretary said the enormous backlog of 320,000 cases would take 24 years to clear.
In today’s interview with The Sun, Mr Smith said the immigration problems could have been avoided with the introduction of ID cards and passport finger-printing.
Some might say this is a bit rich coming from the department which releases illegal immigrants after they have been caught, with an order to report and ‘keep in touch’.
He said Mrs May’s changes, which involve the Border Agency being split into two organisations, one to deal with visas and the other to track down illegal immigrants, would help combat the problem.
The UK Border Agency was created in 2008 to replace the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in the Home Office, a department which was already in chaos, with asylum claims piling up, and staff badly demoralised.
At one point 100,000 letters were found to be unopened and some 14,000 applicants had already been refused the right to stay but were still pleading with the UKBA to reconsider.
In 2011 Mrs May removed Brodie Clark, the Agency’s head, after discovering that Britain’s passport checks had been removed without sanction.
And she finally killed the Agency off last month after five years of failure under Lin Homer, the mandarin who led the UKBA from its inception.
Despite cock-up after cock-up that typified the UKBA under her shambolic reign as ‘CEO’, Ms Homer has now gone to a £180,000-a-year role with HM Revenue and Customs.
In an unprecedented speech in the House of Commons last month, Mrs May laid the blame for the agency’s failings firmly at Labour’s door, saying it was unable to cope with the number of migrants admitted by the last Government.
She indicated she would pass new laws to remove illegal immigrants and foreign criminals from Britain.
Mrs May told MPs: ‘UKBA was given Agency status to keep its work at an arm’s length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture.’
On April 1, the UKBA was divided into two sections, one to deal with immigration visas and one to deal with immigration law enforcement.
Mrs May said the latter department would have ‘law enforcement at its heart and get tough on those who break our immigration laws’.
She said she was returning responsibility for controlling immigration to the heart of the Home Office after a backlog of 300,000 immigration cases built up which would take 24 years to work through.
Her no-nonsense moves came after a scathing report by the Home Affairs Select Committee which revealed ministers had not been given correct information about the scale of the problem for years and accused the Agency of incompetence and foot-dragging.
Last year it emerged that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers were allowed to stay here without proper checks after their cases were put into storage and little or no effort made to trace the individuals concerned.
A Government inspector discovered that some 124,000 cases were put on one side, of whom it later emerged that 37,500 people could have been easily located and potentially expelled from the country.
A further 10,000 cases classified as having ‘legal barriers to removal’ had, in fact, just never been opened.
Officials also repeatedly misled Parliament over what was happening, according to John Vine, the chief inspector of Borders and Immigration.
Other scandals at the Agency included half a million people travelling by Eurostar let in without being checked against a list of murderers and terrorists, expensive biometric passport machinery turned off on 15,000 occasions, and students waved through without their visas being examined.
Tony Smith was appointed Director General of the UK Border Force in September 2012 after ensuring the Olympics passed by trouble-free.
He had already had a career at the Home Office spanning several decades, having served as head of ports and borders in both Canada (2000-03) and the UK (2005-07).
In 2007 he became the first regional director for the UKBA in London and the South East, and in 2010 he was appointed the first full-time Senior Responsible Owner for the UKBA Olympic Programme.
Last year Mr Smith became the joint UKBA/Border Force Gold Commander for the London Olympics. After his retirement last month, having done such a fine job in the UK he became a consultant on global border security issues. Source: Daily Mail.
It’s all very well criticising his paymasters now that he has retired, but what was he doing about the mess while he was running UK Border Force? After all, much of this happened under his watch. He gets a CBE and the former UKBA boss gets another £180,000 a year job running HMRC.
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