"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Home Office blunders criticised

From huge backlogs, menacing deterrents and offensive use of social media to proposals for visitor bonds, it is no wonder MP Keith Vaz described this summer as chaotic for immigration policy.

These UK Border Agency (UKBA) failings, among others, are the subject of a House of Commons report published on Thursday.

The report, which covers the first quarter of 2013, is part of a series produced to monitor the work of the now dissolved UKBA by the Home Affairs Committee.

Its publication follows a summer of chaos which has seen the contents of the Immigration Bill debated, the controversial AdVans scrapped, a U-turn on immigration bonds and the publicising of immigration raids on Twitter, alongside other gimmicks labeled as “ineffective and offensive” by Shadow Immigration Minister David Hanson.

Among the Committee’s findings is a backlog of more than 430,000 pending cases, roughly the same figure as before the UKBA was dissolved at the end of March 2013 following damning performance reviews.

In some categories, such as further leave to remain (FLTR) on the basis of marriage, the backlog has grown, with the number of FLTR cases pending initial decision having increased from 2,100 in quarter four of 2012 to 3,791 in quarter one of 2013.

Although backlogs were down overall by around 70,000, the reduction was mostly achieved by loading pending cases onto a computer, with around 50,000 of these cases still awaiting resolution.

Speaking of the backlogs, which could take up to five years to clear according to the report, Keith Vaz said: “[They] 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”.

The report raises concerns regards the effect the Immigration Bill will have on the most vulnerable, with suggestions for the government to trial a pilot scheme which sees visa applicants use private health insurance as an alternative to an NHS levy.

“We recommend that the government distinguish between those who are temporarily in the country through choice - to work, study or visit family - and those who are here through no choice of their own, such as refugees and victims of trafficking,” says the report.

On the subject of illegal immigration, the report reveals only six per cent of tip-offs from the public were followed up and just 1.5 per cent lead to removals.

In his response to the report, David Hanson said, “Theresa May’s Home Office is failing badly in tackling illegal immigration, backlogs of cases, and can only show progress by sleight of hand”.

“The Home Secretary urgently needs to get a grip on the shambolic performance of the Home Office and make sure people are removed when they shouldn't be here, and sort out the backlogs that are increasing on her watch,” he added.

The break up of the UKBA in March saw immigration services come under the direct control of ministers, with the UKBA replaced by an Immigration Enforcement command and UK Visas and Immigration.

For now it looks as though Theresa May will need more than over-the-knee designer boots to wade through the backlog of pending cases and the mud which the Home Office has been slinging at immigrants of all categories. 

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