UK Immigration response to 150,000 illegal immigrants 'missing' in the UK

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Following the release of a recent report claiming that UK Immigration doesn't know where 150,000 illegal migrants are located, the UKBA insists that they have a clear strategy to identify and remove people who fail to leave the UK when their visas expire.

The damning report, released by John Vine, chief inspector of the UKBA, claimed that there is no Home Office plan to find out how many visa overstayers are still in the UK illegally. He claimed that tracking overstayers down and removing them from the country is not seen as a priority for the agency.

However, UK Immigration Minister Damian Green argued that progress had been made since the criticisms were first made about the UKBA.

"We do have a strategy, and indeed we've been concentrating on these overstayers this summer," Green said. "In the course of the last couple of months we've removed 1,800 of them, so at the time it was a valid criticism and we have gripped it and dealt with it since then."

Green noted that there would always be people who tried hard to prevent their removal, but said many visa overstayers left on their own accord.

Vine said that UK Immigration staff reported it being impossible to know whether there were actually 150,000 illegal immigrants in Britain as no one knew how many people who had been refused further leave to remain had left voluntarily. Officials at the UKBA admitted that about 40 percent of those who had been refused further leave to remain in the UK had not even been formally served with the documents informing them that they had to leave Britain within 28 days.

However, UKBA does already have some procedures (ineffective as they may be) to try and keep an eye on the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. The Migration Refusal Pool (MRP) is a tool used to help case workers identify and track suspected overstayers whose applications to extend their leave in the UK has been refused and whose departure has not yet been confirmed.

The MRP consists of those cases where an application has been made in the UK to remain as, for example, as a student, and has been refused. Applicants are given notice that they must leave the UK within 28 days. Following the decision to refuse the application, but while the applicant is still in the UK, cases are referred to as Work In Progress (WIP). There are various types of case categories within this WIP, including individuals who:
  • have been refused and should leave the UK, but have not done so;
  • may have applied for leave in another category;
  • have outstanding appeals or other legal barriers; or
  • have left the UK voluntarily by a route not captured by E-borders.

The "work in progress" numbers are probably very inaccurate.

"The damning conclusion from the Government's own immigration inspector has concluded that the Government is giving a very low priority to finding and removing people who have been refused permission to stay," Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

"This summer the UKBA launched a UK-wide operation to remove overstayers and we have already seen 1,800 removals since the campaign started," said Green. "Moving forward the agency continues to develop a broader enforcement strategy aimed at addressing all those without lawful permission to remain in the UK. This includes overstayers, but also illegal migrants, failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders."

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