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Absence of certainty on Brexit migration issues, says Committee

27 July 2016

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its first quarterly report of 2016 scrutinising the work of the Home Office Immigration Directorates.

Report findings

Implications of EU exit

The Home Affairs Committee says the immigration directorates especially UKVI must be prepared and resourced to deal with the heavy extra demands that will be placed on them by the fallout from Brexit. Post-Brexit attempts to limit non-EU migration, and the uncertainly over migration within Europe during the exit negotiations, could both lead to a surge in immigration.

The Committee says EU citizens resident in the UK and Brits living and working in Europe must not be used as "bargaining chips" in the Brexit negotiations, and Government must move quickly to establish certainty over their status and the new rules on free movement – if they change significantly. EU citizens living and working in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU, need certainty on where they stand in relation to the UK leaving the EU. The report offers the government three possible cut off dates.

Failure to collect penalties for people smuggling is unacceptable

According to UK Border Force estimates, one-third of lorries arriving at the border do not have the advised standards of security—which equates to approximately 750,000 vehicles a year. In 2014–15 truck drivers and companies were served with more than 3,300 civil penalties for people-smuggling – whether intentional or not – amounting to nearly £6.5million, but around £2.5 million of this was never paid.

As with civil penalties for illegal working, if the Home Office continues to fail to recover fines the deterrent will not work. The Committee intends to make collection of civil penalties one of its key performance measures for the Department.

Foreign National Offenders

In its Q4 2015 report the Committee expressed concern that the number of Foreign National Offenders in the community remains unacceptably high. While the UK is still in the EU the Committee expects the Government's recent commitment to remove significantly more Polish offenders in British jails by the end of the year to be honoured.

The Committee will explore the full implications of the UK leaving the EU in a subsequent inquiry. As the Committee warned in its Q4 2015 report, it will likely become more difficult to remove EU national offenders form the UK "on paper", as well as in practice, post-Brexit.

Key facts

The Home Affairs Committee says: 

  • Despite the number of visa applications falling for consecutive quarters, the number of cases that received by UKVI but have yet to even be entered in the databases continues to rise. This is unacceptable, it is a simple administrative task which should easily be completed. The Home Office's failure to put data on computers is delaying the processing of cases and does not inspire confidence in their ability to manage this caseload.
  • Home Office continues to lack an effective and efficient system for managing its immigration casework, a theme the Committee has noted many times over.
  • The number of outstanding asylum applications is at an all-time high. Despite repeated warnings from the Committee the Home Office has done nothing to address this situation:  it must set out what steps it is taking to tackle this now.
  • An unacceptably high number of asylum applications are being dealt with inappropriately – resulting in people being returned to countries like Eritrea which the Government knows is unsafe – or successfully appealed. The Home Office must review its country guidance and how it applies it.
  • If the Government continues to fail to reduce immigration detention times in line with the Committee's and the Shaw recommendations, further interventions such as a statutory limit on detention will have to be considered.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The biggest issue relating to Brexit is migration. There is a clear lack of certainty in the government's approach to the position of EU migrants resident in the UK and British citizens living in the EU. Neither should be used as pawns in a complicated chess game which has not even begun. We have offered three suggested cut off dates, and unless the government makes a decision, the prospect of a 'surge' in immigration will increase. Multiple voices and opinions from government ministers causes uncertainty, and must stop.

The inability to collect penalties from those who are serial and persistent breachers of our immigration law, who harbour, employ or smuggle illegal migrants make a laughing stock of our border controls. For £2.5 million in fines to remain unpaid is shameful, and if the government is serious about deterring people smuggling it may need to consider making this into a criminal offence.

The prisoner transfer agreement with the rest of the EU has been painfully slow to implement. However until we leave the Union it remains in force. This is therefore an excellent opportunity for EU states to take their criminals back. There are still 9,971 foreign offenders in custody and removal centres, many of whom are from EU countries, and they must go before Brexit."

Further information

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