Bungling border officials lose 124,000 asylum seekers and migrants (that’s the population of Cambridge)

James Slack – Daily Mail November 4, 2011

Border officials have lost track of a population of asylum seekers and migrants as big as that of Cambridge, it emerged last night.

MPs said the number of individuals ‘lost’ by the UK Border Agency had almost tripled in six months from 40,500 in March to 124,000 in September.

Officials say they have placed the cases in a so-called ‘controlled archive’ for applicants who cannot be contacted by officials

But the home affairs select committee said the archive had, in reality, become a ‘dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant’.

The archive includes the cases of around 98,000 asylum seekers who cannot be found, in which the agency has no idea whether the applicant even remains in the UK.

Following a UKBA review, it also includes around 26,000 migrant cases, most of which are more than eight years old, relating to those who have overstayed their visas or who have been refused an extension of leave, such as students.

The MPs said: ‘Whilst we appreciate the difficulties involved in tracing people with whom the agency have lost contact, usually for a period of several years, it is clear that the controlled archive has become a dumping ground for cases on which the agency has given up.

‘From 18,000 files in November 2010, the archive now contains 124,000 files, roughly equivalent to the population of  Cambridge.’  Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘The UK Border Agency is still not providing the efficient, effective service that Parliament expects.’

David Cameron recently called upon the public to report any suspected visa over-stayers or other illegal immigrants to the Crimestoppers hotline so UKBA could investigate.

But Mr Vaz added: ‘There is little point in encouraging people to do this if the border agency continues to fail to manage the intelligence it receives or to keep track of those who apply to stay.’

The process of going through old asylum and immigration cases began under Labour. Where officials could not find the applicant, they put their case into the controlled archive so they could effectively stop looking.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group MigrationWatch, said: ‘This is Labour’s chaotic asylum legacy.’

And Damian Green, Minister for Immigration, said: ‘I am determined to deal with the historic asylum cases left by the last government and we are making real progress tackling the archive to trace these individuals.’

The revelation came as the public continued to sign the MigrationWatch ‘No to 70million’, which calls on ministers to get a firm grip on immigration policy, at the rate of more than 1,000 every hour yesterday. Last night, the Downing Street e-petition had been signed by 67,000.

The e-petition can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1965

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