Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immigration

The coalition are starting to pray the price for making unrealistic promises on immigration and asylum, Ruth Grove-White explains

By Migrant Rights Network’s Ruth Grove-White

Today’s explosive media coverage about an apparent ongoing ‘amnesty’ of asylum seekers with long-standing applications is largely missing the point.

The furore is based on the recent report of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) into the work of the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Among other issues, the report reviews UKBA progress in clearing the backlog of up to 450,000 unresolved asylum applications, many which have been gathering dust in UKBA offices since the late 1990s.

It finds that the government is at last on track to resolve these cases by the target date of summer 2011. Progress, however, has been made by UKBA caseworkers increasingly granting people permission to stay. Forty per cent of applications thus far have been granted leave to remain, and just 9% of applicants have been removed from the UK. Others have left voluntarily or are now untraceable.

HASC concluded that “in practice an amnesty has taken place”. But there are three reasons why we should be looking beyond this conclusion:

1. Is resolving asylum legacy cases really an ‘amnesty’?

Coverage of the ‘amnesty’ that has supposedly taken place is distorting the facts. An ‘amnesty’ is defined as a measure which resolves the status of people who are unlawfully residing in a country. But the asylum legacy cases refer to people who entered the UK, legitimately lodged an asylum claim, and then simply didn’t receive an answer from the Home Office. Some files have been lost, others refer to people who, ten years later, cannot be traced by the UKBA. If giving some of these people permission to stay in the UK must be described as an ‘amnesty’, then we should be clear that this has only been necessary because of failures of the immigration system itself.

2. Measures to resolve past injustices should be an accepted part of our immigration system

As reported by the HASC, the backlog of asylum cases includes people who have been waiting for up to twenty years for an answer on their asylum claim. Some of them have married and have had children here during this time, most will now be settled members of local communities, despite the insecurity of their situation. In general, it is only right that our immigration system should lean towards granting people status when they have been let down by past government failures. This principle should be applied to other groups of migrants also let down by the immigration system, such as the migrant senior care workers who were caught out by rule changes and now find themselves in legal limbo.

3. This shows once again that governments should stop over-promising and under-delivering on immigration management

The HASC also reports that a new backlog of unresolved asylum cases is growing. According to the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA, John Vine, new Home Office targets aiming to resolve 90% of all asylum cases within six months cannot be met. The public has also been promised major cuts in net migration levels, which it is very unlikely the government will deliver on. Let’s get real here: our government’s capacity to control immigration is always going to have limits, and where mistakes are made, they should be resolved. A fair immigration system should be honest about these limitations.

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21 Responses to “Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immigration”

  1. Free Movement

    RT @leftfootfwd Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immig and asylum: : writes @ruthgwhite

  2. Migrants Rights Net

    Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  3. sophie davies

    The left criticising the Coalition over immigration is rather like an arsonist criticising the fire brigade.


    Immigrants multiply.
    They need employment,probably in the Civil Service, where they can
    help their fellows illegally procure the necessary paperwork to
    become residents.
    Would a statistician care to tell us how many 100,000 immigrants will
    become in 25 and 50 years? Quentin

  5. Louise Zanredasilva

    Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  6. MS

    Excellent analysis. I would add that apart from the humanitarian reasons mentioned above, there are also practical ones which justify the ‘amnesty’. If the claims of these people were refused, they would have appealed their removal and most certainly won on appeal, especially if they have established family lives. Thus, the end result would have been the same but the costs to the taxpayer would have been much higher.

  7. Ed's Talking Balls

    1. This is a chicken-and-egg argument. You blame governmental incompetence for the backlog (e.g. losing files etc), whereas I blame those arriving in this country in great numbers for putting the system under intense pressure. Clearly departments make mistakes; it’s just a shame that communities have to suffer as a result.

    Whether or not the current position is correctly described as an amnesty is semantics. The government made promises on immigration and isn’t keeping them. Plus ca change.

    2. No, it is not right that the system should lean towards granting people status when they have been let down by past government failures. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    As for marrying and settling in the interim, I’m not sure that’s a convincing argument. The relevant point is the legality of someone being somewhere at a point in time. I could, for example, be having a great time on someone else’s property for a number of years, but this wouldn’t affect the fact that I have no right to be there and that I could, at any moment, justifiably be removed. (N.B. I am aware that I could acquire rights by adverse possession, but at least the owner of said land would be given a chance to evict me).

    3. Finally we agree. Governments should stop over-promising and under-delivering. However, while I accept that no system will be perfect, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to improve it. The EU is, as ever, the elephant in the corner, so I’ll leave to one side the issue of EU migration (although if Turkey and, post-Mladic, Serbia are to be admitted, among others, transitional controls must be a line in the sand). However, where non-EU migration is concerned, we should police our borders much more strongly, start interpreting Article 3 of the ECHR as it was intended to be applied when written and ensure, for the sake of all involved, that cases are dealt with swiftly.

  8. TopHat

    @QuentinPeck (2): Technically speaking, 100,000 immigrants will become no more than 100,000 immigrants in 25 years and probably a little less, as children of immigrants aren’t immigrants themselves, and additionally many of your original 100,000 sample will move abroad or kick the bucket. So, uh, does that answer your question?

  9. Heaven Crawley

    Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  10. mr. Sensible

    The media’s hipe on this is completely unhelpful to any discussion on the issue.

    What the right-wing media also forget is the number of British expats living in Europe. Someone on the news this morning pointed out that there are quite a few British expatriats living in Tenerif. What does the Daily Mail think should be done about them?

    The fact is that the government’s immigration cap was about headlines and nothing else, and in this review of so called red tape that policy should be on the table.

  11. mr. Sensible

    And people also talk about wages being undercut as a result of illegal immigration.

    But, surely employers should also be taking some responsibility for that?

  12. Julie Gibbs

    Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  13. NCADC

    Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  14. David Rhys Jones

    Useful summary of when an 'amnesty' is not an 'amnesty'

  15. Migrants Rights Net

    @scotrefcouncil When an 'amnesty' is not an amnesty. #UKimmigration The committee should really read the IOM glossary!

  16. Nando Sigona

    RT @leftfootfwd @migrants_rights : Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immigration #asylum #amnesty

  17. Noxi

    RT @ncadc: RT @migrants_rights: Was it really an amnesty? We disagree… #UKimmigration

  18. Davina Gee said

    RT @leftfootfwd @migrants_rights : Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immigration #asylum #amnesty

  19. Asad

    Coalition must stop making undeliverable promises on immigration and asylum: writes @ruthgwhite of @migrants_rights

  20. immigration to UK

    In the U.K. the demographic displacement of the indigenous population should record the ideologically driven socio-economic assault, the social conditioning and the economic leverage used to collapse the population

  21. Nabil

    i have been always surprised when people defend taxpayers evry time when its comes to immigration issues and especialy asylum seekers,when most of theme they was and they still paying taxe with a way or another question?how can the system allow illegal migrant to work by accepting them paying tax with fake doccument?when the insurance number is fake,doesn’t exist??? to be honest with you,the system is benifiting from migrants they pay tax and they can’t get it back and they can’t apply for benifit,because a fake insurance number can give but can’t take and if the migrant get cough using fake doccument to work because he is not allowed to do so and he is not getting any support,the system put him in prison with criminals,no the system knows his insurance number before and the system was involved in his crime,but when it comes to court is the immigrant who pay,most of this kind of immigrant were asylum seekers from the legacy backlog,they left their countries runing away from torture to find themselves,moraly tortured for a years,no answer from UKBA,no poor quality of cases process,mistakes,no support,no right to work,excuse me,we are human being and morale torture is more painful than any kind of torture,you want us to go back to our countries?no problem,what about our rights on waiting for a poor decision all this time?what about our hopes?our live in uk?our friends?our neighbours?our dreams?the price we paid to be here?excuse me?how can this country go to wars to defend dimocracy and humain rights all over the world and still to this moment of writing this words breaching human rights on its own ground?stop liying to the public,brasil few years ago was one of the most debt countries in the world,today they are one of the 8 most powerful economic countries willing to be the 5th in the next 2 years,their ex president was asked about the mass of the illegal immigrant 2 years ago,his answer was(( let’s grant every one even the one who just arrived)) sytems are working by respecting hard workers,this countrys system is helping people to claim benifit,and puting hard workers in a limbo,i m with controling uk bordiers i m with tougher immigration system to protect the country,but please,stop using immigrant as a winner card play to convince public and to deturn their opinion fron the real failer,….

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