UK Border Agency (UKBA) officials have allegedly supplied inaccurate and misleading information to Parliament about the huge backlog of asylum cases, a report has revealed.
The damning report, by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine, highlight’s “significant failings” in the agency’s handling of hundreds of thousands of unresolved cases.
In an interview with the BBC, Vine said “assurances” given to MPs in Parliament about regular checks being made “haven’t actually been made”.
A Home Office spokesman said it was turning around the “troubled” agency, set up after a former Labour Home Secretary described the Home Office immigration department as “not fit for purpose”.
Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, predictably blames the current Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May for the mess. He said:
“This is a complete failure by Theresa May personally”.
The report findings revealed:
- 100,000 items of unopened post including
- 14,000 recorded delivery letters (i.e. Passports, Birth Certificates)
In 2006, the then Home Secretary ordered the UK Border Agency to “deal” with 450,000 unresolved asylum cases within five years.
But 5 years later in the summer of 2011, the agency said it still had 147,000 unresolved cases left and that it needed to launch a special unit to deal with them.
The new unit quickly become swamped with 150 boxes of unopened mail from asylum applicants, their lawyers and constituency MPs stored in a room at the agency’s Liverpool offices.
This was after an affective amnesty was granted to thousands of asylum seekers under the so called “legacy” cases.
Earlier this month the cross party Home Affairs Committee warned that the UKBA’s attempts to clear the backlog may result in another unjustified amnesty for immigrants with no legal right to stay in the UK.
Chairman Keith Vaz said that the number of outstanding immigration and asylum cases sitting in the UK Border Agency is almost the size of the population of Iceland.
Meanwhile, genuine migrant Tier 2 workers and Tier 4 students are sent home often through no fault of their own.
Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Mr Vine talked of the “human cost” of delaying asylum applications for years:
“People who are in this backlog have been complying with the requirements of the Border Agency to supply the information so their status could be determined.
“Because of the inefficiency of the operation, I’m afraid their status in many cases is still outstanding.”
The report confirms what migrants and their advisers have known for years. Immigration Advisers are all too aware of the long delays in receiving a reply fro the UKBA or the Home Office.
One adviser told Immigration Matters that he had just received a returned application, sent to the UKBA in 2007, with a letter stating that it was being rejected because one box had been incorrectly completed. He plans to lodge an immediate appeal.
Cynthia Barker of immigration advisers Bison UK said the situation seems to be getting worse with longer delays, more unfair refusals and no way of speaking case workers at the UKBA.
“In the past we could reach a case worker on the phone and speak to them about an application, but now it is almost impossible to communicate with the UKBA.
“Helplines have been closed or are just contain a recorded message, email addresses discontinued and contact details removed from websites.”
The UKBA website’s “Immigration enquiry bureau” page lists the telephone number: 0870 606 7766. The number is answered by a machine, which gives caller various options.
Options ‘3’ is for “progress on an existing application”, but when this option is selected it leads to another recorded message ending with the words: “This call will now end” before cutting you off. Mission Impossible!
There is an option for general immigration enquiries, but you will have a long wait listening to Vivaldi and more recorded messages advising you to use the website. If you do get through to anyone, you will probably end up speaking to someone a call centre.
On a test call today someone did pick up the phone after a ten minute wait, but hung up before I could speak.
Hundreds of Bulgarian and Romanian EU student yellow card applicants have emailed Immigration Matters complaining that they have wasted hours trying to call the UKBA. They complained that the website takes them round in never ending circles of confusing incomplete information.
Many yellow and blue card applicants have now been waiting for over six months for a response. Same day service appointments at Croydon to submit documents are about as easy to obtain as an EU budget reduction.
Cynthia has some sympathy for overstretched UKBA staff.
“UKBA staff appear to be under greater pressure following staff cuts, which is leading to more errors in decisions and unfair refusals.
“This in turn leads to more appeals, more files having to be reopened and more work!”
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