Private UK immigration contractor tells legal residents to leave the UK

People who have a legal right to remain in the UK are being wrongly told that they are obliged to leave by a private contractor funded by the main UK immigration control agency.

Capita, which describes itself as a 'business process outsourcing company', was given a contract in 2012 to contact migrants who do not have leave to remain in the UK and to tell them to leave. Capita contracted to contact people on a list provided by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and to tell them that they are obliged to leave the country. Capita has undertaken to contact the people on the list by phone, text message or email. The usual message delivered reads 'Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.' Capita stands to make up to £40m from the contract.

Capita began contacting people on the list late last year (2012). Feedback suggests that some of the names on the list should not be there. Among the people so far advised that they should leave are a woman with a UK passport and a man with a Tier 1 (Investor) visa. Tier 1 (Investor) visas are given to those who have invested at least £1m to invest in a British business and, of course, confer the right to remain in the UK on their holders. There are also reports of students with valid Tier 4 visas being told that they are required to leave the country.

'The system is completely ineffective'

This is not the only problem with the scheme, it seems. MJ Ladha, the director of the Peterborough Racial Equality Council, told the BBC 'The system is completely ineffective. If I am an overstayer and I get a phone call, I'm not exactly going to pick up my bags and go.'

And Alison Harvey of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) said 'People will no doubt assume that the messages are spam as sending texts through a sub-contractor for a matter of this gravity is not what one would expect from a government department.'

Ms Harvey added that Capita did not seem to take any action to amend their records when people who had been contacted, phoned Capita to complain that they had the right to stay in the UK. She said that immigration lawyers had told the ILPA that their clients had called Capita 'to explain they have current leave only to receive another text the next day'. Ms Harvey said that she could not say how many names were on the list wrongly. 'It is difficult to get clear information about what is happening,' she told the BBC.

Cases dating back to 2008

The Capita contract involves 174,000 cases that were in the 'Migration Refusals Pool'. This was a collection of cases dating back to 2008 where the applicant had applied for leave to remain in the UK and leave had been refused. After the refusal, no action had been taken to remove the unsuccessful applicant because the UKBA had no idea where the applicants were. In 60% of cases the UKBA had failed to serve the applicants with notice that they were required to leave the country.

The UKBA insisted that many of the applicants would have left the UK of their own accord already but granted the contract to try to find them to Capita. Capita will be paid a fee for every one of those contacted who returns home.

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