28 January 2013
According to a recent report, a new backlog of more than 16,000 immigration cases has been identified.
These cases were uncovered following an examination of how the UK Border Agency deals with applicants from outside the European Economic Area who wish to settle in the UK after marrying a resident.
Looking at cases between April and October 2012, the report found that most of the decisions made were "reasonable" and in accordance with immigration rules. In a sample of 60 cases, the UKBA had carried out security checks against all applicants to identify whether they had previous convictions or adverse immigration histories; the UKBA also made good use of information obtained from overseas in this security process.
However, John Vine, chief inspector of borders and immigration, called the recently identified backlog "completely unacceptable". In this backlog, approximately 14,000 cases were requests for reconsideration of decisions denying leave to remain. More than 2,000 other cases were awaiting an initial decision, some more than ten years old.
Commenting on the next step for these cases, Vine commented: "I expect the agency to deal with both types of case as a matter of urgency." This was one of eight recommendations made in the report, which also suggested that a more systematic approach should be put in place for reviewing and analysing appeal outcomes in marriage cases. All the recommendations made in the report were accepted by the UKBA, which said it would ensure that they are all actioned.
In response to the report, a Home Office spokesman said that most of the concerns highlighted by the report had already been resolved. He commented that the UKBA "is taking action to deal with historic backlogs and has a transformation plan that will put the agency on a surer footing."
The spokesman also emphasised that some of the requests for reconsideration of decisions were "trying to circumvent the appeals process". He added: "We've changed the rules to make clear that those not happy with the original decision should re-apply or appeal and if they choose not to, they should leave the UK voluntarily." He said that the UKBA is contacting such applicants to make sure they do this and enforcing their removal where necessary.
The agency responded to the report by stating that it is focusing on improvement plans that "aim to drive down the number of cases awaiting decision by introducing process improvements and extra caseworking capacity, delivering quicker throughput and better customer service."
Their response also stated that, if successful, these plans "will also reduce the need for repeat checks. However, some cases are subject to further, more in-depth consideration where they are more complex and repeat checks are advisable to reduce risk and safeguard security."
Garth Coates Solicitors