300,000 Pounds In Bonuses For Immigration Officials Despite Backlog of Cases

300,000 in bonuses for immigration officials despite backlog of cases

Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
From The Times
December 8, 2009

Bonuses of almost 300,000 were paid to officials running the immigration service despite the discovery of another backlog of old case files, according to a Commons report. Twenty-nine members of staff, including senior civil servants, at the UK Border Agency were paid the bonus money last year.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said that the UK Border Agency was still a long way from performing as it should. John Reid, the former home secretary, had said that the service was not fit for purpose.

Earlier this year the agency said that it had found 40,000 more old cases where officials had no formal record of whether immigrants, many of them students, had left the country.

We are astonished that such a large number of files 40,000 should have been, in effect, abandoned incomplete. We sincerely hope this is the last batch of unresolved cases to discover, Mr Vaz said. He said that despite the backlog, 29 employees had received bonuses totalling 295,000 in 2007-08.

The report said that of 450,000 asylum case files uncovered three years ago, 220,000 had been dealt with, resulting in 74,000 asylum seekers and their children being allowed to stay in Britain.

Increasing numbers of immigrants are being allowed to remain because as time passes they are more likely to have established a family, making it difficult to remove them, the report said. It also said that the target of 2011 for officials to deal with the substantial backlog should be moved to September next year.

Mr Vaz said: There is still a huge backlog of unresolved cases and UKBA simply must get through them faster than they have promised. It is astonishing that the latest efforts to get their house in order threw up another 40,000 files that had been effectively abandoned incomplete yet in 2007-08, 29 employees received 295,000 in bonuses.

No one can forget the previous Home Secretary describing UKBA to my predecessor committee as not fit for purpose. We know the agency has had a lot to contend with, but it is apparent that UKBA still has a long way to go before it is operating as it should.

Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said: The UK Border Agency is continuing to make progress in dealing with the legacy backlog of older asylum cases and has already concluded more than 220,000 cases. We are now looking at whether we can clear the backlog earlier than summer 2011.

Mr Woolas defended the payment of bonuses. With the creation of the UK Border Agency, we assembled a management team from across Whitehall and beyond who are leading dynamic changes across the business. I believe that it is right to reward staff for outstanding work, and bonuses are only ever awarded to those who have performed to a high standard, he said.

Damian Green, Shadow Immigration Minister, said that the report provided further evidence that the chaos inside the immigration system had not been resolved.

He said: Ministers have had years to deal with the backlog created by the collapse of controls after 1997, but it is clear that they have not succeeded. They should treat this as an urgent priority.


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