Public Accounts Committee’s report on UK immigration system

Public Accounts Committee publishes its report into the UK border and immigration system.

From the Committee’s press release: The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

“The Home Office scrapped the UK Border Agency in March 2013 partly because its performance in dealing with backlog cases was not good enough.

However, the Department has also failed to get a grip on the long-standing problem of asylum backlogs, with some 29,000 applications dating back to at least 2007 remaining unresolved. In 11,000 of these cases people have not even received an initial decision on their asylum claim.

To make matters worse, the Department is also failing to meet its targets for dealing with newer claims, so it is now creating another backlog for itself. The number of claims awaiting an initial decision was up 70% to 16,273 in the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.

It is deeply worrying that the Home Office is not tracking those people whose applications have been rejected to ensure that they are removed from the UK.

At the end of 2013-14 there were over 175,000 people whose application to stay in the UK had been rejected, and they are placed into a migration refusal pool to await removal.

The number of such cases has not been reduced over time. Some may have left the UK voluntarily, but without exit checks it is almost impossible to know.

It is particularly disturbing to find that, when the Department asked Capita to check over 250,000 case records in 2012 and 2013, Capita had been unable to contact over 50,000 people listed. The Department admitted that they did not know where these 50,000 people were.

The Department should, as a matter of urgency, take more steps to identify people that remain in the UK illegally and speed up their removal.

The failure of major IT projects designed to streamline process not only leaves the Department reliant on archaic systems but may also end up costing the taxpayer up to £1 billion. The cancellation of the Immigration Case Work programme and the e-Borders IT programme could mean a gobsmackingly awful figure being wasted.

The Home Office must put in place skilled, incentivised staff and sort out its data so it can crack the backlog and move people through the system. It must also go back to the drawing board and develop a comprehensive, system-wide IT strategy.

The pressure is on, and the Home Office must take urgent steps to sort out this immigration mess.”

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