Immigration: Forty year backlog of 500k applicants

UK Home Secretary Theresa May. Picture: PA
UK Home Secretary Theresa May. Picture: PA
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MORE than half a million people are now on the UK’s soaring immigration backlog, which will take almost four decades to clear, MPs have warned.

There has also been a rise in the number of foreign national offenders awaiting deportation, said the home affairs select committee in its report on the old UK Border Agency (UKBA).

It warned the decision to scrap the agency and replace it with two new divisions – one in charge of immigration and visas, the other with border enforcement – was in danger of being an “exercise in rebranding”.

Of the 502,000 cases – up from 321,726 in September last year – 190,615 were people who had been refused permission to stay, but were still in the country.

A further 33,500 were live asylum cases, and 61,103 had been moved on to the criminal investigation department, while 16,100 were awaiting a decision over whether they could stay after marrying a British national.

The committee also revealed the figures include 4,149 criminals – foreign-national offenders.

“The backlog of cases has hit a staggering half a million people. This could fill Wembley Stadium six times over,” Keith Vaz MP, committee chairman, said. “At the current rate it will take 37 years to clear and the Home Office cannot confirm that this is the last of the backlogs.”

He added: “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.”

After a raft of damning reports, Home Secretary Theresa May abolished the UKBA and replaced it with UK Visas and Immigration and an Immigration Enforcement command.

The new head of the UK Visas and Immigration section, director general Sarah Rapson, warned the service will never be “perfect”. In its report, the committee said: “We are concerned this is an admission Ms Rapson does not have the resources necessary to ‘fix’ the service.”

The number of cases in the migration backlog is 502,462, the committee said, compared with 321,726 in the last report.

A total of 4,102 foreign- national offenders were living in the community awaiting deportation in the final three months of 2012, an increase of 122. The committee added that it was “deeply concerned” that spending on external consultants in the final three months of last year increased twentyfold from £27,000 to more than £500,000.

Mark Harper, immigration minister, said: “The new UK Visas and Immigration Service has a clear focus to improve visa performance and customer service, while the Immigration Enforcement command concentrates on those who break immigration laws. Both now report directly to ministers, delivering greater transparency and accountability.

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

Detained teen wins May case

AN Afghan teenager has won his compensation battle with the Home Office after a judge ruled he was falsely imprisoned for five weeks by immigration officials after arriving in England on a lorry.

Judge Gary Burrell QC ruled in favour of the youth – thought to be 17 – after a High Court hearing in London and said the size of a damages award would be assessed.

The teen sued Theresa May after being detained in 2011.