`Visa pleas, 337,000 in number, were not fast-tracked’

`Government does not have open door immigration policy’


10th November 2009:
A day after reports surfaced that the Home Office staff was ‘encouraged to take risks’ over immigration, the UK Border Agency has refuted the allegations and denied having an ‘open door’ policy on immigration. 

Rebutting newspaper reports claiming insufficient consideration of 337,000 visa applications made in the early 2000s, a Home Office spokesperson said the report was “seriously misleading in relation to the events and figures, the facts of which are a matter of public record in the Sutton report of 25 March 2004”.

The spokesman added: “We have never had an ‘open door’ policy on immigration”.

He said “the applications were the subject of a full inquiry by Ken Sutton in 2004.The Home Office accepted the report in full and implemented all of the recommendations made. The report can be accessed online and has been there since 2004….

“Our border is now one of the toughest in the world and we are determined to strengthen it. We have rigorous controls in place, including fingerprint checks, to ensure that individuals who are of concern on security grounds will not be granted visas to come to the UK or be granted asylum.’”

According to the documents released under Freedom of Information rules, a senior official had claimed Home Office staff were to be ‘encouraged to take risks’ over immigration.

The staff was allegedly told to be biased in favour of allowing immigrants into the country, rather than refusing visas or work permits. Rather, staff was told to make minimal checks on the newcomers.

The allegations followed publication of memos between the then Home Office civil servant in charge of immigration policy Sir Bill Jeffrey, and then immigration minister Beverley Hughes, in 2003.

The memos came out in the open as the Home Office made attempts to clear a backlog of 45,000 applications for visas, work permits and permits for extended stays in Britain.

It was alleged during the process as many as 337,000 applications were fast-tracked under the code name Brace.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling, meanwhile, said he had copies of those documents and they were clearly marked ‘Withhold’ at the top.

He alleged this was a Government that has set out to deliberately deceive the British people and a Government that has proved utterly incapable of telling the truth about its immigration policies.

Dismissing the attack, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said it was a “political gimmick”.


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