The UK's independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, John Vine, has released his plan for inspections for 2013-14. He says he will carry out 20 inspections of various parts of the UK immigration system including six unannounced visits.
Mr Vine says he hopes the plan will accelerate the pace of improvement in the immigration system.
Mr Vine has been the inspector of immigration since 2008. He is thought by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, which scrutinises the work of UK immigration services, to be a powerful force for reform in UK immigration. Indeed, Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee suggested that Mr Vine should apply to become the permanent secretary to the Home Office, the senior civil servant in charge of policing, immigration and other Home Office functions, when the post was vacant in 2012.
UK immigration was 'not fit for purpose' in 2006The UK's immigration system has been in turmoil for years. In 2006, the then Home Secretary John Reid, declared that the immigration system was 'not fit for purpose' after a backlog of 450,000 unresolved asylum cases was found, abandoned in an underground storage facility.
Mr Reid (Now Lord Reid) abolished the Immigration and Nationality Directorate which was then responsible for immigration. In 2008, a new, independent body, the UK Border Agency, was established to deal with the immigration system. It was hoped by the Labour government that was in power at the time that the independence of the UKBA would allow it more operational autonomy and allow it to develop effective management systems free from day-to-day political interference.
Inspector has exposed multiple failingsHowever, Mr Vine has since helped to expose considerable failings in the UKBA. For example, in 2012
- It emerged that, on several occasions in early 2011, the UKBA had abandoned efforts to check biometric passports at Heathrow Airport at peak travel times and had failed to check names against security databases. This led to the resignation of the then head of border policing operations, Brodie Clark. After this, immigration operations in sea, air and rail ports were handed over to a new agency, The UK Border Force.
- In 2012, Mr Vine and his inspectors uncovered a hidden backlog of 180,000 cases in the 'migration refusals pool'. These were cases in which applications for the leave to remain in the UK had been refused but the UKBA had made no efforts to find and expel the applicants.
- In March 2013, the Home Affairs Committee issued a report saying that Mr Vine and his inspectors had uncovered backlogs of over 310,000 cases which would, at the current rate, take 24 years to clear.
UKBA was 'not good enough' in 2013On 26th March 2013, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that she would abolish the UKBA because it had developed a secretive and defensive culture and was simply 'not good enough'. She said the functions of the UKBA would be taken back into the Home Office and placed inside two directorates one of which would deal with visa and citizenship applications and the other of which would deal with immigration enforcement and the removal of those without leave to remain in the UK.
Mr Vine said 'the decision of the Home Secretary to split up the UKBA echoes my findings that while there has been progress in some areas, there is much more that can be done'.
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