Border agency attacked for misinforming MPs with inaccurate data
UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff have been accused of misleading MPs after a report demonstrated that they dealt with immigration cases so inefficiently that at one point 100,000 pieces of post were unopened.
Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine said MPs had received incorrect information on the progress of the work.
Vine said that applications were archived as “unresolved cases” after “very minimal work”, despite the fact the agency told MPs that they carried out exhaustive checks.
The immigration inspector confirmed yesterday that the UKBA’s programme relating to 147,000 asylum “legacy cases” submitted before March 2007 was still not resolved. People concerned have been left in limbo for an average of seven years.
The report showed inefficiency, poor customer service and inadequate security and data checks, which affected often vulnerable asylum seekers, including former unaccompanied children whose cases should have been considered a priority.
The Chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, said with vivid disappointment: “The failure to properly check asylum cases means UKBA is in danger of overseeing an effective amnesty for many of them.”
He then added: “To mislead a committee of the house is an extremely serious matter. Those same officials who came before the committee have all received bonuses. On the basis of this report they should hand them back immediately.”
A spokesman for the Home Office, attempting an apology, declared: “We have known for some time that UKBA is a troubled organisation with a poor record of delivery. Turning the agency around will take time, but we are making progress. The border force is now an independent organisation and its performance is improving.”
However Chris Bryant, shadow Home Office minister, appeared more interested in an in-depth understanding of what went wrong at the UKBA.
He publicly asked the Home Secretary Theresa May to explain why her department has provided incorrect information to the Home Affairs Select Committee and Parliament, as well as ignoring requests for information from the Select Committee.
He subsequently added: “She must also explain why her staff have been so slapdash in their attempts to track down failed asylum seekers. She cannot hide behind others. This has happened on her watch.”
It is not the first time UKBA has been caught in a storm. Last September, the same Home Office department faced strong criticism for causing chaos in the student visa system with poor planning and ill-thought-out last minute rule changes for overseas students.