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UK Border Agency’s operation exposed by undercover reporters | Immigration Matters

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With UK immigration still at the top of the political agenda, undercover reporters expose the now defunct UK Border Agency sitting on tens of thousands of files in crates and a massive backlog of immigration cases not even put on the system.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme presenter Morland Sanders investigates whether Britain’s immigration system is fit for purpose.

Posing as temps recruited by the UK Border Agency to clear the backlog of 150,000 cases, the Channel 4 sent undercover reporters into the belly of agency’s caseworking team in Sheffield.Movie Carol (2015)

Reporters saw first hand the hundreds of thousands of files being moved around and reclassified by managers.

Evidence was presented to Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman Keith Vaz who was appalled by the report.

Vaz has been highly critical of the UKBA and spoke of the culture, which he said will remain after the agency is ‘renamed’ and brought back under the banner of the Home Office with the same staff and management.

The Labour MP and former Minister described the UKBA’s policy of reclassifying and renaming backlogs as “totally unacceptable” and said the agency was like the “Dr Who Tardis, which looks small from the outside but when you go in is absolutely huge”.

The programme also found evidence of 50,000 new cases which will not be looked at in the near future because they have not yet been put on the system.

14 years for an immigration decision

The UKBA are prioritising ‘more straightforward’ cases for immediate action, whilst other more complex ‘human rights’ cases are left for later consideration. This explains why some leave to remain applications are approved within 8 weeks while others take between 6-12 months.

In one scene a case worker was seen flicking through what looked like a BR1 form for a yellow or blue card application by a Bulgarian or Romanian.

Romanian and Bulgarian BR1 yellow card cases take as long as 6 months for a simple permission to study and work for an EU citizen.

The undercover reporters discovered one asylum application which took 14 years to be approved. The applicant could have been approved in 10 years under the legal long stay rules.

Staff admitted that they had no idea where international students were now living or whether they had left the country. The UK still has no counting in and out visa system.

One UKBA officer spoke of letters being sent out to students asking them to leave the country, but without checking on their current visa status.

This explains why so many students have received distressing letters from Capita, the private bounty hunter recruited by the government to track down visa overstayers, despite being in the UK legally.

With so many temporary staff working on cases is it any wonder why a large number of refusals are overturned on appeal at the First and Upper Tier Tribunals?

Staff were secretly filmed by Channel 4 casually discussing boxes of lost ‘files’ (migrants lives) and how a temp spent an entire day finding just one file.

There appeared to be no filing system so the temp had to search through entire crates to locate the file.

The UKBA has been hit by staff cutbacks, yet hundreds of more expensive temporary workers were recruited to meet targets.

A British women also spoke to the UKBA’s failure to deport a convicted sex offender at the earliest opportunity even after he had been released back onto the streets to commit more crimes. She was attacked and sexually assaulted by the man in a park near her home.

The lady claimed that he would not have been deported had she not pushed the UKBA and stayed on their back until he was put on a plane back to Sierra Leone.

In summary, the programme revealed an agency, formerly run by Lin Homer who has since been given a £180,000 a year job leading HMRC, which has lost its way and is unable to cope with the sheer volume of cases going back to the last century.

Watch the full programme for the next 7 days on Channel 4:

See also:


Immigration Appeals where UKBA withdraws original decision may not always be good news for appellant

Former UK Border boss blames Labour Government for immigration control fiasco

New UK Immigration application forms – 6 April 2013

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has published new versions of the following application forms, as well as new immigration forms, for use on or after 6 April 2013.

If you have been arrested or detained, need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 1, 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed, Spouse 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: or visit for free immigration news updates.

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