MPs: UK Border Agency unable to fulfil its basic functions

Home Affairs Committee has criticized the UK Border Agency for failing to deport more than 600 Foreign National Prisoners who were released between 1999 and 2006 are still in the country.

The Committee’s third report of the year into the Work of the UK Border Agency, also criticises the Agency for failing to clear the ever increasing "controlled archive".

The report urges the Home Office to act immediately to deal with the public scepticism in the effectiveness of the UK Border Agency and to require clarity in the information it produces for both the public and Parliament.

The Committee also highlighted the confusion surrounding the circumstances of the 520 Foreign National Prisoners, released in 2010–11, who have been allowed to remain in the country.

The Committee found that the Agency has still not resolved all of the asylum 'legacy' cases first identified in 2006. Instead, there are 17,000 ongoing cases still awaiting a final decision and the Agency appears to be discovering more cases.

When first announced in 2006, the backlog was estimated at 400,000-450,000. The true figure was 502,000 cases.

The Committee highlighted its concern at the size of the "controlled archive" which has only been reduced by 5000 files since its last report in November 2011.

There are now 119,000 files placed in the archive where every effort to track an applicant has been exhausted. The MPs warned that at the current rate it will take a further four years to close all cases.  “This is unacceptable,” said Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee.

The MPs said that the £9.1m cost of the Iris Scanners, which are being closed down only five years after their introduction, should not be repeated.

The Agency should publish data collected on e-Gates trials to ensure it does not suffer the same costly investment in equipment which will not last, the Committee said.

The Committee said it remained uncertain over the feasibility of the Government’s e-borders timetable. It is difficult to see how the scheme can be applied to all rail and sea passengers by December 2014, the Committee said.

Observing that the Agency is still losing almost half of the appeals brought against it, the Committee said systems must be put in place to improve the Agency's appeal figures.

It is unacceptable that the 'Agency' refuses to recognise the term 'Bogus Colleges' and that it makes half of its inspections announced, the Committee said, adding that the UK Border Agency must make all inspection visits to Tier 4 sponsors unannounced.

The Agency should as a matter of routine, begin working to establish the identities of Foreign National Prisoners, and ensure that they have the necessary travel documentation, as soon as they are sentenced, MPs recommended.

"The reputation of the Home Office, and by extension, the UK Government, is being tarnished by the inability of the UK Border Agency to fulfil its basic functions,” said Mr. Vaz. “The Foreign National Prisoner issue and the Asylum backlog were scandals which first broke in 2006, six years ago. UKBA appears unable to focus on its key task of tracking and removing illegal immigrants, overstayers or bogus students from the country.”

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