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Backlogs hit half a million at immigration service

13 July 2013

The Home Affairs Committee published its report 'The work of the UK Border Agency (October–December 2012)' on Saturday 13 July 2013 (Fourth Report, Session 2013-14, HC 486).

The Committee examines the work of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on a three monthly basis. Following the abolition of the Agency we will continue to monitor the Home Office UK Visa and Immigration service on a three monthly basis.


The Committee found:

An Agency plagued by backlogs

  • We were alarmed to discover in Sarah Rapson's evidence session a further backlog of 190,000 cases in the temporary and permanent migration pool that were never revealed to the Committee before. The total figure for the number of cases in the backlog has reached over half a million (502,462). Whilst we welcome this admission from Ms Rapson and hope she is more forthcoming with this Committee then her predecessor, it is simply unacceptable that new backlogs are routinely revealed in Committee evidence sessions.

An exercise in rebranding

  • The UK Border Agency had a troubled history. Many of its problems predate the establishment of the Agency. Ministers must now explain how those problems will not outlive its demise. If we are to see a shift in culture the new organisational structure and management must be complemented by the ability for a wholesale restructuring of the employees of the organisation. The newly appointed Directors General must have the ability and resources necessary to implement this change. The Home Office should outline exactly how they propose to bring about this change in culture.

The immigration system will 'never be fixed'

  • In her evidence to the Committee on 11 June 2013 Sarah Rapson when asked if she thought the Immigration Service would ever be fixed she said: "I don’t think so". The Committee were surprised by this revelation. Although we welcome Ms Rapson's honesty, the Committee are concerned that the person tasked with 'fixing' the agency does not think the job will ever be complete. We are concerned this is an admission that Ms Rapson does not have the resources necessary to 'fix' the service. The Home Office should work to reveal the full scale of the backlog so that it is able to apportion the funds necessary to clear the backlog.

Chair's comments

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

"The backlog of cases has now hit a staggering half a million people. This could fill Wembley Stadium to capacity six times over. It has risen by 56% in just three months. At the current rate it will take 37 years to clear and the Home Office cannot confirm that this is the last of the backlogs.

Theresa May described the UK Border Agency as 'closed, secretive and defensive', however, despite abolition nothing appears to have changed apart from the name. If people at the top are not replaced this will only be an exercise in rebranding as has happened in previous reincarnations. There should be no more bonuses paid to any senior management at the Home Office until the backlogs are cleared.

In evidence the Committee were told the immigration service would never be fixed. This is astonishing since reducing immigration is a priority of this Government. What the immigration service needs desperately is stability, the resources necessary to clear the backlogs and a wholesale change in culture."

Immigration service backlogs

No. of cases Q3 No. of cases Q4 Difference

% change
since Q2 2012

'Live' asylum cohort 28,500 33,500 5,000 18%
Asylum controlled archive 0 0 0
Live immigration cases 4,000 7,000 3,000 75%
Immigration controlled archive 0 0 0
FNOs living in the community 3,980 4,102 122 3%
FNOs – untraced 47 47 0
Migration refusal pool 181,541 190,615 9,074 5%
FLTR applications not processed within targets 28,558 Unknown Unknown Unknown
No of cases still to be loaded on CID 59,000 61,103 2,103 4%
FLTR on the basis of marriage or civil partnership – cases pending review 14,000 14,000 0 0
FLTR on basis of marriage or civil partnership – cases pending initial decision 2,100 2,100 0 0
Temporary and permanent migration pool Unknown 190,000 190,000 Unknown
Total 321,726 502,467 +180,741 56%

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