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‘Chaotic summer’ on immigration – Home Affairs Committee

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is still failing to get to grips with a backlog of cases, a report from the Home Affairs Committee has found.

The MPs on the committee have also attacked government plans that would force landlords to conduct immigration checks, saying it could make landlords unwilling to risk renting property to even legal migrants – or people that landlords assume are migrants – just in case.

The committee’s new report, which covers the period from January to March 2013, showed the backlog was still at 432,000. Most of the 70,400 reduction was simply conducted by loading pending cases onto the computer, the committee said.

The MPs were concerned about how the proposed charge for NHS access for temporary migrants could affect vulnerable people, and have recommended the government pilot an alternative where visa applicants take out private health insurance.

The committee also welcomed the decision to scrap the immigration AdVans campaign. The report stated: “Tough enforcement action should be taken against those who are determined to remain here illegally, but for the target audience of potential voluntary returners, the effectiveness of the carrot is potentially undermined by the ostentatious brandishing of the stick.”

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Committee said: “There are still over 430,000 cases languishing in the backlogs, enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost five times over. As we have said on numerous occasions, the backlogs must be cleared as a matter of priority, only then will the Home Office be able to tackle the deeper problems in the immigration system.

“This has been a chaotic summer for immigration policy. First we had the controversial AdVans which were rightly ridiculed, and then it was revealed that Capita had botched the contract to clear the migration refusal pool by asking British citizens to leave their own country. Finally we saw a U-turn on visa bonds, however the uncertainty has already done damage.

“If the government wants to get tough on illegal immigrants it needs to take effective action. When people make allegations about those here illegally the Home Office must act. Currently only 6 in 100 reports of illegal immigrants result in an actual investigation and only 1.5 in 100 result in removal. This is a very poor record and does not give confidence to those who go out of their way to help the Home Office.”

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