UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has responded to an inspection report by the Independent Chief Inspector for borders and immigration, John Vine, on the Hampshire and Isle of Wight local immigration team.
In his report Mr Vine criticised the UK Border Agency for failing to deal with thousands of visa overstayers.
The report claims that there are at least 150,000 illegal immigrants in the UK who have been refused right of abode but says the UK Border Agency has no idea where they are and neither does it have a coherent strategy to tackle this problem.
The scale of the backlog and the fact that the agency does not know where these immigrants are make this a “national problem”, the report said. These immigrants usually enter the UK through legitimate routes such as student visas and then continue to stay on even after their visa has expired.
“There are over 150,000 cases nationally of migrants who have been refused an extension of stay in the UK,” said Mr Vine. “The Agency does not know how many of these individuals have left the country or are waiting to be removed.”
According to the report, this number is rapidly increasing. For example, there were 153,000 people in the “migration refusal pool” (MRP) in October last year and it jumped to over 160,000 by end December. The report was produced based on an inspection of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight local immigration team in December 2012.
The lack of effective management information at the agency was confirmed when the UKBA staff estimated there were only between 400 and 600 cases in the local area when in reality there were around 1,900 cases.
Within this local area about 40% in the MRP have not been provided with a deadline to leave the UK. Out of the 44 files examined by the inspectors, in 20 cases the absconders voluntarily left the country and one was forced to leave. However, the UKBA has no idea where the remaining 23 are.
“This issue is a national problem,” the report said. “We believe the Agency needs to be much more pro-active in providing a clear strategic direction for its staff to follow in dealing with the MRP cases. This should stop the already significant backlog from increasing and ensure that steps are taken to reduce it over time,” the report said.
“I also saw no evidence that there is a clear plan in place for the Agency to deal with this stream of work to ensure this does not become another backlog,” Mr. Vine added. “”I believe it can and must do more to demonstrate it is dealing with this issue in a more proactive manner.”
Mr Vine said: “The Agency needs much more effective planning in place to deal with this stream of work in order to ensure it removes individuals still in the UK who have no right to be here, while setting out clear performance targets to manage these cases much more effectively.”
In an official response today Mr Green said: “The UK Border Agency welcomes the Chief Inspector’s report and in particular his findings about exceeding our targets for removals and praising the professionalism of our enforcement teams. We have accepted the report’s recommendations and are planning how to implement them.
“The report highlights the migration refusal pool (MRP). The MRP is a tool to help case workers identify and track suspected overstayers whose applications to extend their leave in the UK has been refused and whose departure has not yet been confirmed. The tool also tracks applications awaiting a decision and those with further issues that need to be resolved. The MRP is not a list of overstayers waiting to be removed.
“This summer the UKBA launched a UK-wide operation to remove overstayers and we have already seen 1,800 removals since the campaign started.”
Moving forward the agency continues to develop a broader enforcement strategy aimed at addressing all those without lawful permission to remain in the UK. This includes overstayers, but also illegal migrants, failed asylum seekers, overseas students with expired visas and foreign national offenders.
The current government has inherited a huge problem, going back a number of years, from the previous administration. However, with cuts in the number of UK Border Agency staff taking place, moral and service levels appear to be at an all time low.
The UK Border Agency has introduce a raft new Immigration Rules designed to reduce immigration to fit in with government targets. Measures include: A clampdown on student visas, abolition of PSW, new appeal regulations on family visits, raising the minimum income for marriage visa to £18600, new Tier 2 working visa Rules, working visa cap and more hurdles for Bulgarian and Romanian yellow card applicants.
Immigration Matters has received thousands of emails from international students who have been caught in the cross fire during the government’s clampdown on private colleges leading to widespread closures.
Last week the UK Border Agency announced important changes to the way applications from visa overstayers will be treated.
Starting 1 October 2012, if you have overstayed your leave or permission to stay in the UK by more than 28 days any application for further leave will be automatically refused.
Immigration Advisers Bison Management has dealt with many cases of migrants who have overstayed their visa period. Bison Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker said:
‘Overstaying applicants are normally automatically refused unless there is a strong case for a human rights appeal or for instance where they are in a relationship or have a child with British or EEA national.
‘Many of the cases are dealt with on an ‘outside the rules’ basis or go to a full appeal at the First Tier Tribunal.’
Employers who employ migrant workers on working or students visas should have a system in place to monitor visa expiry dates, as the government is targeting illegal working.
If you need any immigration advice 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 refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: