The Home Office is said to have no idea whether 40,000 immigrants who were refused extensions to their visas as far back as 2003 ever left the country, according to Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency.
Writing to the home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz, Homer revealed that the agency had a backlog of 400,000 to 450,000 asylum cases and 40,000 immigration cases. She said they were being checked against police records to see if any undesirables were still in the UK, including potential terrorists.
“We are also increasingly giving attentions to our older, archived, non asylum cases, where we have dealt with the application, but we have no formal record that the individual has left the country”, she wrote.
“In the last few months we have begun the process of reviewing these files to consider if any further action is necessary or possible. Where further action is required it will be taken and any cases which may be considered as harmful to the public will be prioritised.”
The Home Office estimate that many of the ‘missing people’ were either no longer in the UK or had been allowed to stay on.
“We expect those that are here illegally to return home. Where they refuse to do so, we will seek to enforce their return,” the department said.
The revelation comes three years after John Reid, then Home Secretary, described the Home Office’s immigration department as “not fit for purpose”.
The Agency is currently working its way through a backlog of between 400,000 – 450,000 old asylum cases and is now preparing to start work on the 40,000 backlog of old immigration cases.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK said: “Yet another skeleton in the Home Office cupboard.
“Tens of thousands of case files lying around and the true situation covered up for years on end. This is symptomatic of the utter chaos in the asylum and immigration system during the past ten years.
“Nobody in the private sector would get away with such a performance.”
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