At least 154,000 asylum seekers to stay
By Tom Whitehead
The Telegraph (U.K.), October 12, 2009
Less than one in ten of 450,000 historic cases that were ignored for years will face deportation, according to official projections in a leaked memo.
And tens of thousands more are unlikely to ever be traced, officials predict.
Human rights laws are the root cause for most of those who will be allowed to stay because the delays in dealing with their claims mean they have effectively settled in the UK.
The Conservatives said the Government had allowed the situation to result in a back door amnesty.
It comes a day after it emerged immigration rules have been relaxed to allow up to 40,000 of the cases to stay so that a deadline to clear the backlog can be met.
Ministers have pledged to clear the 450,000 so-called 'legacy' cases, some of which date back to the 1990s, by 2011.
Just under 200,000 cases have been dealt with so far and more than 63,000 have been told they can stay.
A memo seen by this newspaper contains an official projection of how the remaining cases will be dealt with.
It shows that by completion some 154,000 cases will have been approved for indefinite leave to remain. In contrast less than 40,000 will face removal.
Human rights laws will be the reason most cases are approved, either because it is unsafe to return the asylum seekers or because they have been here so long they now have families and are protected under the right to family life.
Tens of thousands more will be written off as untraceable or because it have been confirmed they are dead or have left the country.
The remaining numbers will be written off as duplications or erroneous files.
Damian Green, shadow immigration minister, said: 'However you look at this, this is an amnesty by stealth.
'The Government may as well come clean and admit the system has broken down so badly that they have lost control of our borders and of the whereabouts of tens of thousands of people.'
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: 'This is another back door to Britain.
'All these people, once granted settlement can bring their dependants.'
The memo, from Matthew Coats, the head of immigration for the UK Border Agency in July, was signed off by Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, and was also sent to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.
The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday how the Home Office allowed officials to change guidelines to grant indefinite leave to remain to 40,000 people because it is going to be too difficult to remove them.
The change means that some who have been in the country for as little as four years will be allowed to stay because of the delays in processing claims.
Immigration staff are also working through 40,000 historic files of migrants who were told before 2003 that they no longer had a right to stay. No record has been made of whether they left the country and it raises the prospect that thousands could still be here unlawfully.
Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: 'There is no amnesty.
'Thousands of illegal migrants have already been removed by our enforcement teams, and we will continue to track down those with no right to be here targeting lawbreakers first.
'Were working through these cases quicker than ever, with 800 dedicated staff already concluding almost 200,000 cases.
'Our decision making has been strengthened and only around 35 per cent of people are being granted leave. I am confident all these cases will be cleared by 2011.'