The private firm appointed by the Home Office to trace 174,000 illegal overstaying students has been accused by immigration advisers of breaking the law by sending ‘deportation orders’ by text message to migrants (e.g. from the Philippines and India) who were legally entitled to stay in the UK or had already left.
The Home Office taxpayer funded contract could be worth up to £40m (depending on how people leave the UK) to Capita, one of the largest contractors working on outsourced local and national government operations.
In a case reported to the BBC foreign IT workers were told to leave the country Capita even though they went back to India four years ago.
Thirty-one migrants who have previously left the UK were incorrectly told to leave by Capita this week.
The firm claims that this is part of the process in order to “identify those whose records suggest they are overstayers but who have already left the UK”.
The astonishing statement calls into question Home Office figures on overstayers since nobody seems to know which migrants are still here and who have left the country.
This week, BBC News revealed that people with valid visas were being contacted in error and told to leave the UK.
Among those contacted by text and email were a woman with a UK passport, and a man with a valid visa who had invested £1m in a UK business.
The Director of the Peterborough Racial Equality Council, MJ Ladha, told the BBC that he was approached by a woman who had been contacted by Capita before Christmas.
Mr Ladha told the BBC the woman had been told she was an “over-stayer” and should prepare to leave the country. She holds a UK passport which is valid for 10 years.
“She was very distressed and upset, she was crying and shaking. Whoever has done this doesn’t know what they are talking about,” he said.
Mr Ladha said he advised his client to complain to the UKBA.
He added: “It [the system] is completely ineffective. If I am an over-stayer and I get a phone call, I’m not exactly going to pick up my bags and go.”
New Immigration Rules effective 1 October 2012 means that overstayers who leave the UK at their own expense will not be liable to a re-entry ban if they overstay for less than 90 days (previously 28 days).
The 14 year long stay concession has gone
Many overstayers are holding out in the hope of qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residence under the ‘14 year long stay rule’, which no longer applies following recent changes to the Immigration Rules on 9 July 2012.
However, you may still have grounds to stay in the UK under human rights in particular Article 8 – right to a private or family life.
Alison Harvey from the Immigration Law Practitioners Association told the BBC:
“We were concerned at reports of people who had valid leave to be in the UK receiving the texts and that over the holiday period it would be difficult for them to get in touch with their lawyer and they would be anxious and distressed with no possibility of reassurance. Our request was declined.
“People will no doubt assume that the texts are spam as sending texts through a sub-contractor for a matter of this gravity is not what one would expect from a government department.”
She added that despite some clients contacting Capita to update their records, the problem was not solved.
She said fellow lawyers had reported “clients talking to Capita to explain they have current leave, only to receive another text the next day.
Immigration adviser Cynthia Barker, said one of her clients received a distressing text messages from Capita despite being here legally with an application for ‘further leave to remain’ currently being processed by the UK Border Agency.
The text message read:
“Message from UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain. Please contact us on 0844 3754636 to discuss.”
“The client was distressed not only because she is in the UK legally and the message was factually incorrect, but also with the method of communication.
“Capita are acting like some sort of debt collecting agency which is bringing the name of a Government agency into disrepute. What will they do next, post a message on their Facebook wall or Twitter?”
The UKBA conceded last year that has not been able locate the 174,000 people from the ‘Migration Refusal Pool’ – those whose applications to remain in the UK had been refused.
The agency also admitted that about 60% of them had never been served with documents requiring them to leave the country.
Capita was hired to track down migrants and students in the pool and warn them that they are required to leave the country. The firm will be paid a commission depending on how many actually go back to their home country.
A UKBA spokesperson said: “This is the first time a government has taken proactive steps to deal with this pool of cases, some of which date back to December 2008.
“We have to make sure we keep control over our immigration system and we will enforce the removal of anyone who refuses to go home voluntarily.”
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If you are a visa overstayer, or need any immigration advic,e or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email:
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