Latest migration statistics show the UK Border Agency is still not fit for purpose

The latest migration statistics show the UK Border Agency is still not fit for purpose; where there are failings, the home secretary must be held to account.


Jill Rutter writes on migration issues and formerly worked at the Refugee Council and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

The Home Office and the Office for National Statistics released their quarterly immigration statistics yesterday, a three-monthly ritual of claim and counter-claim for those involved in the debate about immigration.

While the home secretary, Theresa May, might draw solace from a fall in net migration – down from 242,000 to 183,000 – the statistics show continued incompetence on the part of the UK Border Agency.

Significantly, the statistics were released on the same day as a report (pdf) on student migration from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. This, too, highlighted UK Border Agency failings. But this is no new trend, with numerous official reports highlighting weaknesses in this executive agency of the Home Office.

The quarterly immigration statistics show a small fall in work visa, student and family migration. Some 4 per cent fewer work visas were issued abroad in the year to September 30th, 2012, compared with the previous 12 months.

Grants of student visas have fallen even further, down 26 per cent from the previous year, although most of the drop has been in the further education and independent college sector.

However, ONS population estimates suggest steady migration flows from eastern Europe with the Polish-born population who are resident in the UK increasing by 9.5 per cent over the previous year. This is not surprising, given the strength of Sterling compared with other European currencies, and high levels of unemployment both in eastern Europe and other potential countries of migration within the EU.

Interestingly, population data does not point to any large-scale exodus from the PIGS countries – Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain – with population estimates for these countries fairly steady over the last year.

Dig down a little deeper, however, and a more worrying picture emerges from the statistics.

Asylum applications have increased a little in the year to September 30th, 2012 – up 8 per cent to 20,838 applications in the year to September 30th, although it is important to note this is a small fraction of the numbers coming in the early years of this century. (There were nearly 86,000 asylum applications in 2002).

Not unexpectedly, there has been increased numbers of applications from Syria and Libya, with 1,204 applications from the latter country in the year to September 30th, 2012.

Some 64 per cent of initial asylum applications were refused in the year to September 30th, 2012, yet more than a quarter (26 per cent) of these refusals were overturned at appeal. For Eritrean appellants, 48 per cent of them had their appeals upheld, and for Somalis this figure was 53 per cent. Some 34 per cent of Zimbabweans, 37 per cent of Sri Lankans and 30 per cent of Iranians had their appeals upheld.

Overall, this means UKBA is getting it wrong in one out of four asylum cases; among some national groups a such as Somalis, a far higher proportion of initial decisions appear to be wrong. Poor quality decision-making by asylum caseworkers can have a devastating effect on the individuals concerned. It also costs the taxpayer dearly, as asylum appeals are expensive.

The asylum system is not the only area of the UK Border Agency’s work that has come under the spotlight this week. The Chief Inspector’s report (pdf) on student migration highlights a failure by the UK Border Agency to follow up on notifications it received about students who have failed to turn up to classes. In May 2012 there was a backlog of 153,000 such notifications.

Although the UK Border Agency has followed up on some of these, the Chief Inspector’s report notes there are still:

“…insufficient resources to manage notifications.”

The Chief Inspector’s report is the latest in a stream of criticism of UKBA, with other reports from his office; from the home affairs committee; the public accounts committee; the Parliamentary Ombudsman; and the National Audit Office – and not forgetting last year’s high profile border control fiasco.

Six years after home secretary John Reid labeled the immigration and asylum division of the Home Office “not fit for purpose”, the UK Border Agency still seems unfit for purpose. This is despite its work moving to an executive agency of the Home Office and numerous restructures.

Public hostility to immigration remains high in the UK and a major issue that plays into this are the operational failures of the UK Border Agency. These incompetencies also lessen trust in the government to police the borders.

If we are to become more comfortable with immigration, the government needs both to address the failings of the UK Border Agency and to debate its resourcing. If we want a high quality border agency, we will need to pay for it, yet there is little consensus or even debate about how much public spending should be spent on immigration control.

Ultimately, long-term improvement to the quality of the UK Border Agency s requires greater and sustained ministerial leadership, rather than symbolic firefighting when things go wrong. And where there are failings, the home secretary must be held to account.

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32 Responses to “Latest migration statistics show the UK Border Agency is still not fit for purpose”

  1. patyc

    if I go to the petrol station, hire a taxi or go to macdonalds, it’s obvious that immigration is of unskilled people doing jobs that our army of unemplyed could do. they probably came in on student visas or pretending to be high skilled. unless we get this under control people will just be against immigration as a kneejerk

  2. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, it’s “obvious” that you stereotype immigrants as all low skill scroungers. Don’t worry, you’re wrong – your Tories are turning away six-figure earners trying to employ hundreds of people here, in at least two cases I know of people who were accepted into America on the very rare O1 “superstar” visa’s!

    The numbers overstaying on student visas are tiny, but keep cracking down on them, which has a major knock-on effect on the funding available for British students, since they cross-subsiside them. But hey, no skin off your nose if the Redbrick universities close…

  3. Content Writer

    There is an undue focus purely on the numbers by the UK Government.

    Government is boasting on its ability to reduce the immigration for the first time in several years, however all they’ve mentioned is the number of net migration not the quality of immigrants who are actually leaving the UK.

    As an international student in UK till July 2012, I came across if not thousands at least hundreds of illegal immigrants at several points in time & everytime I had a chance, I considered it to be my duty to give information to UKBA as well as to Crime Stoppers about such illegal immigrants. I have been personally giving them these tip offs since Dec 2010 (that is when I got to know about ways to report illegal immigration).

    However, till today, I have not come across a single such person who was reported by me to have been removed from the UK, they’re illegal immigrants with visas expired several years ago & there are in the UK for cash in hand jobs & other such jobs.They don’t pay taxes and simply send all the cash they earn (after their expenses) to their native countries through private money transfer services (Money Laundering stuff)

    Such worms are eating up the economy of the UK, but because UKBA & the UK Government are least bothered to buckle up & start working hard on catching these fraudsters (even though all the information including their addresses were given to them by people like me), it is we, the genuine students who are suffering.

    Speaking particularly about my knowledge & immigrants whom I have known ever since I was in the UK, it is genuine students / professionals etc who left the UK as they were unable to get visas to work after their studies or companies were simply not hiring them as they were told that even if they were interviewed their application would be put on hold unless they have interviewed UK / EU candidates for the vacant position, & only if still they have any vacancy would they consider the immigrants.

    So finally these genuine students / professionals / migrants have now left the country, but illegal immigrants are still thriving in the London.

    Alone at Wembley Central tube station, on a weekday evening around 6 pm if immigration team decides to crack down illegal immigrants, they could actually get hold of several hundreds of illegal immigrants if not thousands, but they aren’t doing it, there could be two reasons for this, they are lazy enough & not bothered, or they are simply being bribed by such communities to stay away from their (illegal immigrants’) areas.

    and those charged with governance and those responsible to figure this out, seems to have been highly incompetent in fulfilling their duties.

    For this reason, due to continuous failure of & UK Govt on being able to crack down illegal immigrants, they have now taken the easy route, simply strict the policies, stop issuing visas, close work entry routes to non – EU immigrants under several categories, but they’re not understanding the simple point, this would only be short term & would actually encourage more illegal immigrant activity within the UK.

    Not only that, once these genuine immigrants who were actually either willing to contribute to the economy through means of genuine employment or were already contributing to the overall economy through their employment, are all out of the UK, the tax system & benefit system would see a death-spiral because there would be less people to earn through genuine employment & hence less people to actually pay taxes & so less people would be able to get their benefits or the benefits would be sharply reduced in the longer run (as they are already in the process of happening),this is where the death spiral begins, less jobs / less incomes / less taxes / more benefit claims, goes on unless the economy crashes.

    Home Secretary’s & David Cameron’s urge to achieve short term targets are actually costing billions to the economy in the longer run, at the same time, international students are being put off from coming to the UK to study as they now see no more prospects of even finding a short term work experience to enhance their CV before they return to their home country.

    Talking of myself, a bit of introduction…

    I was an international student in the UK who arrived in the UK in Aug 2010. I came to the UK to study ACCA and got done with all my exams in first attempt along with BSc in Applied accounting- Oxford Brookes and left UK in July 2012 as I was unable to secure employment due to immigration changes. I appeared for interview at several blue chip companies and Big 4 Accounting firms etc., but everywhere after being successful in interview I was told my application was on hold due to immigration reasons, & they would get back to me if they have vacancies after having interviewed UK / EU candidates, unfortunately, I never heard from them till the date (although they dont know I have left UK so they could still email me if I am selected)

  4. gee

    solo makinde

  5. adophe miliband

    if you can drive a taxi, rape children and you’re a terrorist then you’re welcome to live here with your massive family.

    if you are of any discernible benefit to the UK you can fuck off back to where you came from

    UK immigration policy

  6. Patrick

    I thought you didn’t like ‘six figure earners’. Aren’t they all immoral, greedy scumbags? And you don’t like business owners either -they are out just to exploit workers with ‘slave labour’ to make themselves rich.

  7. Patrick

    It always seems rather ironic that the Left, with it’s open door immigration policy, likes to lecture other people about border controls. The census in 2010 showed that the population of London increased by 12% in just 10 years. The population of the UK rose by 2 million in the same period. You only have to walk the streets of certain cities to see how the demographics of the UK have changed so dramatically since Labour were elected. For a long time, the Left used the accusation of racism against anyone that objected, until the levels became so high, and such a mainstream issue that it was untenable to accuse everyone of BNP links, and they realised that the issue had become mainstream. Then, you no longer heard accusations of racism, you started to hear more voter friendly terms like, ‘maybe the levels of immigration were a bit high’ and a subtle repositioning of approach.

  8. Newsbot9

    Nope, you’re fighting your own windmills as usual, against your own fantasies.

    My issue is with capital, not wages, and slaver, not the free market.

  9. treborc1

    Miliband we will be tough on immigration, now then anyone laughing will go to jail, but I cannot help it it’s hilarious

  10. njean

    the Labour government were using accusations of racism to cover up industrial scale child rape by one of their voting blocks.

  11. Newsbot9

    No, the far right are not a Labour voting block, and that’s quite the accusation you’re making there. Got figures, or is this more bashing?

  12. Newsbot9

    There is, of course, no “open doors”. And yes, your kind of virulent racism is driving together communities of multi-generational immigrants in self-defence. There is no “accusation”, you have espoused highly racist views.

    And yes, your far right are doing a VERY good job at keeping skilled immigrants and paying students out. Thanks for a further demonstration of how much you hate the economy…

  13. Newsbot9

    UK? No, that’d be your country, where your own behaviour, as described, is expected. Hateland is not the UK, and of course you are against skilled immigration.

  14. Newsbot9

    Feel free to publish your list, after all if it’s true then there can be no possible repercussions…

  15. Newsbot9

    Feel free to publish your list, after all if it’s true then there can be no possible repercussions…

  16. dani

    all over the news. Labour essentially decriminalised child rape for a certain favoured community. lots of Labour supporting social services turned a blind eye as did PC right-on plod and the Labour supporting BBC. this we know already. there are people that knew but didn’t speak up and they are as guilty as the abusers themselves and as guilty as those that deny it or attempt to minimise it. that’s you.

  17. daniB

    I am against unskilled immigration because it hammers the poor. I am against skilled immigration because it increases traffic, makes parking more difficult and pushes house prices even further from normal people’s means.

  18. Newsbot9

    Yes, I’m sure the lies you excuse your views with are those.

  19. Newsbot9

    No, your far right kept on doing it regardless of the law.

    And yes, there’s been too much PC towards your far right, time to crack down on you. Thanks for admitting you’re guilty of hiding abuse.

    I’m not a Labourite. You are a right winger…

  20. Patrick

    I challenge you to quote a single racist phrase in my post.

  21. Newsbot9

    Sure. Easy.

    Patrick – “open door immigration policy”

    Next, self-admitted racist?

  22. Content Writer

    You guys seem super active on comments, I am not that active, I only post what and where I have personally faced or experienced things, either me being impacted by it or me just willing to share something.

    BTW, what list are you talking about?

  23. NDS Esquire

    Thank you so much
    for this article. I am an immigrant. I am an educated, law school graduate,
    immigrant. I am an immigrant with over 7
    years practicing law in the United States. I have been waiting ages for my visa
    application, meanwhile I’m not allowed to work because of their rules, I’m not
    allowed to go back to visit my family in the States because they won’t let me,
    and there is no communicating with the office at all. I moved here to start a
    life with my husband. I have to sit at
    home each day unable to contribute financially because they can’t seem to get
    their act together. Meanwhile their office can’t even process an address change
    for my pending application because they can’t locate it. Funny too because they
    were quick enough to take my money when they got it. This organization is an abomination.

  24. NDS Esquire

    Well said

  25. Patrick

    There is nothing racist in that statement. It is a characterisation of the last governments policy of mass immigration.

  26. Newsbot9

    Yes yes, you keep repeating your big lie.

  27. Newsbot9

    Of the people who are breaking immigration law…

  28. Patrick

    You mean that people would be free to earn very high salaries, but they wouldn’t be allowed to save any of it? Is that what you mean?

  29. Newsbot9

    Not at all. The problem is unearned income, not earned income. And “any of it”? No, simply a higher tax rate, rather than the lower ones which apply today.

  30. Globetrotter2012

    Why anyone wants to move to such an ugly, racist, crime ridden country like UK is beyond my understanding. I am not an immigrant, but I am one of those upper class Indian millionaires who used to visit London regularly and enjoy bits of central london society / lifestyle. I always stayed in Kensington or Knightsbridge and never really wanted to step out of the few posh areas of London. But in the past few years ive seen an increased rate in crime, racism and just filthy people filling up the uk. Worst of all are your uneducated low class chavs who have no manners, no decency and absolutely no class, And they live in council flats all over the city. London has also become a very ugly place lately and the british sophistication is long gone…even from the posh london hotels which are regular hangouts for very bad nouveau riche and certain dodgy kinds of people now. When I used to visit london ten years ago they were much more welcoming at immigration ports, now they treat every visitor with suspicion and a lot of disrespectflu hate filled attitude…they dont even seem to understand how important it is for uk to have “visitors” especially business people and toruists or upper class foreigners who just want to enjoy london life…none of these kinds of people want to stay in any one city anyways….but seriously uk has become a very hostile country to even visit. Lastly what baffles me most os that uk immigration gave visas and filled up the country with so much filthy poor people but they create problems for rich foreigners just wantng to visit and treat them badly at uk borders……most immigration officers i personally encountered in uk were seriously stupid and probably undereducated yet they are doing such an important job…..!

  31. Chris Haenze

    I am an international student who applied for and received a visa when I came to the UK to study in 2009. I attended lectures, submitted assignments and abided by the work conditions of my visa (20hrs a week during termtime, 40 hrs a week during holidays). I have since gone on to do a masters course and applied for a visa as well. I am currently stranded in the UK waiting for my visa. I had hoped to go home for christmas but until I receive my visa and passport I can’t leave the country. There are between 60 and 70 international students from my university alone who are in a similar situation. I have not heard anything regarding my visa since mid November when it was requested that I have biometrics taken at the post office. If the UKBA is meant to represent the country internationally, then they are doing a terrible job of it. Handling people’s applications in a timely manner and actually communicating with them throughout the process would be a way to show people you respect them. However, UKBA doesn’t seem to get the point here.

  32. Chris Haenze

    It’s good to meet a fellow sufferer

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