A newly revamped immigration agency that is more accountable to the public was launched on Monday.
The Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate started work under the new title of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) with its officers wearing new uniforms.
Immigration staff at all ports will have a more visible presence with uniformed Immigration Officers and new signage.
The new agency is part of a wider shake-up of immigration services, including the breaking up of the huge Home Office department, following a string of crises and scandals.
Last year, then Home Secretary Charles Clarke was ousted from office after it emerged 1,000 foreign prisoners had been released without being considered for deportation.
John Reid took over from Clarke, but has struggled to keep the Home Office off the front pages since announcing that the Home Office was not “fit for purpose”.
Starting a UK-wide tour to meet frontline Border and Immigration Agency staff, chief executive Lin Homer said the new agency aimed to be “more responsive to the communities it serves”.
“It will engage with a whole range of partners from police, local councils and agencies to deliver the sort of service that the public expects,” he said.
“It will be more open and accountable with clear, published targets, so the public can see whether it is delivering.”
The BIA will focus on local-level immigration, with six regional directors responsible for delivering a range of day-to-day immigration services.
The six regions are: Scotland and Northern Ireland; North East, Yorkshire and Humberside; North West; Wales and the South West; London and the South East; and Midlands and East of England.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the number of asylum seekers had fallen to the lowest level since 1993 and deportations were at an all-time high.
But he added: “We want to give the Border and Immigration Agency freedom not only to work globally delivering border security, but act locally tackling local immigration policing priorities.”
This year, Byrne unveiled a raft of new measures including new powers for immigration officers to arrest smugglers or criminals at airports and harbours. He has also talked of “exporting” Britain’s borders.
In a document published lasts week ‘Securing the UK Borders’, the Home Office outlines plans to reform the visa system including off-shore border controls and the introduction of a new US style visa waiver programme. See Immigration Matters for full article.
Under the Borders Bill, foreign prisoners will also face automatic deportation if they have committed a serious offence, such as crimes against children, terrorism or drugs offences and been sentenced to imprisonment.
Foreign nationals living in Britain will also be required to hold an identity card with biometric data such as fingerprints in a bid to crack down on illegal working. The identity card scheme will be rolled out in 2008.
Work Permits UK’s revised forms appear to have been pasted with words “Border and Immigration Agency” next to the Home Office logo, which makes the branding a little unclear. Interestingly, payments, which were increased this month, are still made to ‘Work Permits UK’.
You may be surprised if you get a call from Home Office staff introducing themselves as the ‘Border and Immigration Agency’.
If you should have any questions on working or studying in the UK email Charles Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org.