Immigration backlog ‘tops 500,000′

UK Border Agency badgeScrapped: Four departments have replaced UKBA

The backlog of unresolved immigration cases has grown to more than 500,000, a group of influential MPs has said.

The Home Affairs Committee said that at present rates it could take 37 years to clear.

In its latest report into the system, the cross-party committee questioned whether splitting up the UK Border Agency would change anything.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said the Home Office was now in a better position to clear backlogs.

In its last report, the committee said there were 11 separate backlogs totalling 320,000 open or unresolved cases in the immigration system.

Now it says there is a 12th backlog of 190,000 files called the “Temporary and Permanent Migration Pool”.

This brings the total to more than 500,000, which committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said was “staggering”.

However, it is understood the Home Office disagrees with the figure because it is not new and has been over-counted by 40,000.


IMMIGRATION BACKLOGS

  • Q2 2012: 325,156
  • Q3 2012: 321,726
  • Q4 2012: 502,467
  • Source: Home Affairs Committee

The committee said the backlog had emerged during its first evidence session with Sarah Rapson, the head of the new service dealing with visa and immigration applications.

Home Secretary Theresa May scrapped the UK Border Agency in March and said that two divisions, the first headed by Ms Rapson and the other for enforcements, would answer directly to ministers.

But the committee warned the change might be no more than a “rebranding exercise”.

Mr Vaz said: “The backlog of cases has now hit a staggering half a million people. This could fill Wembley Stadium to capacity six times over.

“Theresa May described the UK Border Agency as ‘closed, secretive and defensive’, however, despite abolition, nothing appears to have changed apart from the name.

“If people at the top are not replaced this will only be an exercise in rebranding as has happened in previous reincarnations.


NEW IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENTS

  • UK Visas and Immigration Service
  • Immigration Enforcement Directorate
  • UK Border Force
  • Operational Systems Transformation

“There should be no more bonuses paid to any senior management at the Home Office until the backlogs are cleared.”

Mr Harper said: “The UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation for many years, which is why the home secretary took the decision to split the agency in March this year.

“The new UK Visa and Immigration Service has a clear focus to improve visa performance and customer service, while the Immigration Enforcement command concentrates on those who break our immigration laws.

“It will take a long time to clear the backlogs we inherited – but through the changes we have made we are in a much stronger position to do so.”

Rob Whiteman, who headed the now scrapped agency, is leaving the Home Office for another job. The Home Office said he was leaving voluntarily and there was no severance package.

Separately, the committee said it wanted to know why the former agency had spent more than £500,000 on outside consultants in the final quarter of 2012.


BBC News – Politics

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