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Immigration system suffers as government deals with foreign prisoners’ scandals

All’s not well with system: Parliamentary Ombudsman

9th February 2010: All is not well with Britain’s immigration system — at least this is what Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham believes.

She was in all praises for the "significant progress" made in reducing the asylum backlog. But, she came to the conclusion that attempts aimed at fixing lengthy backlogs in the asylum system and to deal with scandal over foreign national prisoners only resulted in new blockages elsewhere in the immigration system.

She insisted long delays meant asylum seekers would be difficult to remove, even if their cases were rejected.

Abraham said the agency allowed a new backlog of 77,000 applications for residence from European nationals to build up, as resources were diverted elsewhere following public outrage.

In less than three years, the Ombudsman received more than 1,300 complaints from MPs. Of those investigated last year, a whooping 97 per cent were upheld.

Abraham said if the Agency was operating effectively, any application would be determined within a reasonable period. Its failure to resolve applications within reasonable time period could have serious implications for the individuals concerned and the society in general.

There was also a risk for the Agency of a loss of faith in their system by applicants, by other related organisations, and by the public at large.

She elaborated the system was just not operating effectively. As a result, it faced a loss of public support.

In her report, Abraham also gave details of basic administrative errors in hundreds of cases handled by the UK Border Agency. As a result of complaints to her office, individual migrants were handed payouts of hundreds of pounds.

In a particular case, an individual was paid more than £1,500 in compensation following a series of blunders by the officials. His papers were faxed to the wrong Embassy, letters telling him he could stay in the UK not sent, and his complaints ignored.

Reacting to the developments, Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said they took the Ombudsman’s recommendations seriously and welcome the assessment that their complaints systems were improving.

The UK Border Agency was continuing to make progress in dealing with the legacy backlog of older asylum cases and has already concluded more than 235,000 cases. The agency was confident it was on course to conclude these cases by the summer of 2011.

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