MPs say UKBA officials should return bonuses until backlog cleared

The UK Home Affairs Select Committee has reprimanded the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for its backlog of 276,460 unresolved immigration and asylum cases as being "totally unacceptable". Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs committee, has now called upon senior officials at UKBA to return bonuses worth £3.5 million, which they received, despite the increasing backlog of cases.

"This backlog is now equivalent to the entire population of Newcastle upon Tyne. It will take years to clear. The agency seems to have acquired its own Bermuda triangle. It's easy to get in, but near impossible to keep track of anyone, let alone get them out," Vaz said.

The MPs were alarmed that 24 percent of UKBA staff continued to receive bonuses in 2010-11 despite the agency's poor performance. MPs said that senior staff should repay the bonuses they received in order to fund caseworkers to tackle the backlog.

"We think they should hand it back because that £3.5m that they got in 2010 could get even more caseworkers who could try and make sure this backlog is finally tackled, because at the end of the day, unless you tackle the backlog, cases are coming in every single day," said Vaz.

The backlog includes 150,000 people in the migration refusal pool who were refused leave to stay in the UK, plus 101,500 cases in the controlled archive which covers asylum claimants who applied before 2007 but whom UKBA lost contact with and is trying to trace. The remainder of the backlog includes 21,000 asylum cases and 3,900 former foreign national prisoners living in the community and awaiting deportation.

The MPs claim the UKBA must act immediately to find ways to locate those people in the backlog and resolve their cases.

UK Immigration minister Damian Green said the MPs "raise some legitimate concerns about issues we are aware of and are already working to tackle".

"The government decided not to prioritise UKBA and cut 5,000 staff from the organisation. They are failing to take illegal immigration seriously and all of the indicators are getting worse. UKBA is clearly in need of real change, but the government has run down the agency and failed to properly get a grip of our country's immigration controls and the security of our borders."
excellent educational facilities," said Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister.

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