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Chief Inspector condemns UKBA's failures in asylum cases

Vince Cable, Asylum, Backlog, Inspection, Inspector 26 November 2012

An independent report into the UK Border Agency's handling of outstanding asylum and migration cases has found that 100,000 items of post relating to cases remained unopened at one point.

This large backlog has left the asylum seekers concerned without a response to their claim for an average of seven years, with one case awaiting a decision since 1995. The unopened post includes crucial letters from applicants, lawyers and MPs.

The issue of a backlog of asylum cases is not new: in 2006, the home secretary promised that the backlog of 450,000 unresolved asylum claims would be cleared by July 2011.

Chief Inspector of Immigration John Vine said that the UKBA's programme to deal with 147,000 outstanding asylum cases, which had been submitted before March 2007, remained unresolved.

This is contrary to what the home affairs select committee was told by senior UKBA officials. Vine found that "updates given by the agency to parliament in the summer of 2011, stating that the legacy of unresolved asylum cases was resolved, were inaccurate." He states that the evidence he unveiled suggested that "cases were placed in the archive after only very minimal work in order to fulfil the pledge to conclude this work by the summer of 2011."

He identifies the reasons behind this issue as relating to inefficiencies, poor customer service, and a lack of security and data checks. He also stated that many applicants would have been badly affected by the delays due to a change in a policy giving those affected permission to stay in Britain for only three years, rather than indefinite leave to remain.

On further investigation of the security checks, Vine found that those performed on the 124,000 controlled archive cases "had not been undertaken routinely or consistently since April 2011" against either the national police database or the anti-terrorist warnings index. He claimed that this was "at odds with the assurances given to the home affairs select committee."

The chair of the home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, said that the report was "devastating". He states that "The failure to properly check asylum cases means UKBA is in danger of overseeing an effective amnesty for many of them."

Responding to this critical report, a Home Office spokesman said: "We have known for some time that UKBA is a troubled organisation with a poor record of delivery. Turning the agency around will take time, but we are making progress. And UKBA has a transformation plan that will put the agency on a surer footing."

The spokesmen added that all cases in the controlled archive had been reviewed to ensure anyone still in Britain was traced and, if necessary, removed from the country.

In order to address the UKBA's data reporting issues, a new performance and compliance unit will be established to ensure that data published by the organisation is robust and reliable.


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