Appendix: Government response |
The UK Border Agency and Border Force have considered
the recommendations of the Work of the UK Border Agency (August-December
2011) report and the Government response is below.
Conclusion / recommendation 1
The Committee welcomes the reduction in the number
of prisoners who were released without being referred to the UK
Border "Agency" and the Committee will continue to monitor
the figures to make sure that this decline is maintained. The
Committee notes that further processes are being implemented to
ensure that all Foreign National Prisoners eligible for deportation
are considered and repeat our basic view that no Foreign National
Prisoner should be released without deportation being fully considered.
We are pleased that the Committee has recognised
the improvements made. We continue to work with the National Offenders
Management System (NOMS) to improve the referral process and maximise
Foreign National Offender (FNO) removals. FNOonly establishments
allow embedded UK Border Agency staff to start the deportation
process more quickly, and we are also working closely with the
police to establish the nationality of FNOs at an earlier stage
in the process.
On page five of the report, the Committee request
an explanation for why fewer FNOs were removed in 2011 than in
2010. This is largely due to fewer cases arising which fit the
deportation threshold numbers are down approximately 12%
in 2011 compared with 2010, whilst the overall prison population
has not fallen. As we continue to remove more FNOs earlier in
the process, the remaining cases are the most complex and therefore
present the greatest obstacles to removal.
Conclusion / Recommendation 2
The Committee has long suggested that the terminology
and figures used by the UK Border "Agency" can be, at
best, described as confusing and at worst, misleading. It would
seem that, on this occasion, even their Chief Executive had difficulty
in following the data provided to the Committee. The work of the
"Agency" and any discussion on immigration will necessarily
involve the use of statistics. It is vital that, when providing,
figures, especially to a Committee of the House, that the information
is consistent, clear and accurate. The Committee expects this
to be the case in future. It is difficult to see how senior management
and ministers can be confident that they know what is going on
if the "Agency" cannot be precise in the information
it provides to this committee.
As The Committee has pointed out on a number of
occasions, the "Agency" is an integral part of the Home
Office and is not a separate "Agency" with separate
systems of accountability. This is therefore a matter for the
Permanent Secretary, and as well as receiving reports from the
head of the "Agency" the Committee will expect to hear
from the Permanent Secretary how she intends to clean up the use
of statistics within the Department.
Taken together with:
Conclusion / Recommendation 21
Once again, the UK Border "Agency" were
initially obstructive when asked to provide essential information
to us, this is unacceptable. Given the criticisms the Committee
has made previously about the "Agency's" refusal to
provide information to this Committee and the undertakings by
Mr Whiteman to work with us, it is also highly disappointing.
The Committee takes our scrutiny of the UK Border "Agency"
very seriously and will not be deterred by the "Agency's"
attempt to circumvent our requests for information. It is in the
public interest that this "Agency", charged with implementing
the Government's immigration policy, is held to account by Parliament.
When Mr Whiteman first appeared before us, he pledged to be to
be transparent and work with us on the basis of trust. We welcome
those pledges and look forward to them being fulfilled.
We are committed to being as transparent as possible
in our public use of statistics and management information. For
the latter we have put governance in place to improve the quality
and range of the data we routinely publish. We have also established
a programme to review regular requests for data, including those
from Select Committees, to confirm we have the assurance processes
needed to add these data to our regular data releases. In cases
where the Committee requests data that the department would not
normally be expected to publish on quality grounds the Committee
will be advised of this in the course of data provision and the
quality concerns that apply will be clearly signposted on any
data that are supplied.
The Home Office is committed to upholding the highest
standards in adhering to the Code of Practice for official statistics.
It is advised on statistical matters by its Chief Statistician
who has final oversight of data released by the department. The
Chief Statistician and the Permanent Secretary believe that the
detailed issues cited by the Committee do not imply any need to
'clean up the use of statistics,' especially given the positive
recent assessment of the Department's immigration statistics by
the UK Statistics Authority.
We share the Committee's view of the central importance
of robust information in the UK Border Agency and Border Force.
The Department has created a new Performance & Compliance
Unit, with a leader from outside the Agency and an explicit remit
to assure that. Early action has included seconding in a senior,
independent external auditor to set up and oversee that element
of the Unit's work.
Conclusion / Recommendation 3
The Committee is deeply concerned that there are
2,670 Foreign National Prisoners living in the community and still
awaiting deportation after two years. The Committee recognises
that some of this is due to circumstances beyond the "Agency's"
control, such as the domestic political situations in some prisoners'
countries of origin. However, more could be done to address the
problems of false identity and lack of documentation. The Committee
recommends that the "Agency" should, as a matter of
routine, begin working to establish the identities of Foreign
National Prisoners, and ensure that they have the necessary travel
documentation, as soon as they are sentenced. The next time the
Committee scrutinises the "Agency", we intend to ask
how many Foreign National Prisoners were referred to the "Agency"
at the point of sentencing.
We begin work to obtain travel documents as soon
as it is practicable in the deportation process which is normally
when the decision to deport has been made. Emergency travel documents
tend to have limited validity and there is no real advantage in
being in receipt of them too early in the process because they
are likely to expire before they have been used. We work with
the FNO and check all available records to establish their identity,
and aim to time the receipt of the emergency travel document so
that it is valid when the FNO is due to be removed.
Our agreement with NOMS is that prisons will refer
FNOs who appear to meet the deportation criteria to the UK Border
Agency within five days of sentencing. We are in the process of
ensuring that data on referral times of foreign nationals who
meet the deportation criteria is collected which will enable us
to better measure performance and identify areas for improvement,
and which we will be glad to share with the Committee.
On page eight of the report the Committee asks for
an explanation as to why some of those FNOs referred for deportation
are found to be exempt from deportation. NOMS may refer an individual
that they consider to be an FNO as they have advised that their
nationality is not British or their place of birth is outside
of the UK, or NOMS have doubts about their claim to be British.
Subsequent investigation by the UK Border Agency may confirm that
the individual is a British citizen, either by birth or naturalisation.
Additionally, FNOs are referred to the UK Border Agency by NOMS
when they think they meet the broad criteria for deportation.
Further checks into the FNO's criminal convictions and sentence
length may reveal that the deportation criteria are in fact not
Conclusion / Recommendation 4
Figures provided to the Committee are unclear.
The Government response
indicates the Case Assurance and Audit Unit is
dealing with 17,000 live cases despite having concluded 7,700
of the 18,000 referred to in the "Agency's" update to
the Committee in September 2011. Parliament was originally told
that the backlog was a maximum of 450,000 in 2006 yet the numbers
given to this Committee suggest that it has now reached 502,000.
The "Agency" is providing inconsistent information.
The Committee suggests that if the categories within the data
differ from those previously supplied to the Committee, an explanation
be given in order to avoid any confusion. The "Agency"
must rid itself of its bunker mentality and focus on ensuring
that Parliament and the public understands its work. Confusion
over figures only risks suspicion that the "Agency"
is attempting to mislead Parliament and the public over its performance
and effectiveness. The only way the Home Office can allay and
remove these fears is to clean up and clarify all the figures
that are used in these reports.
Taken together with:
Conclusion / Recommendation 5
In correspondence the "Agency" has continually
referred to two controlled archives, one for asylum cases and
another for immigration cases. Yet they appear to have merged
live asylum and immigration cases from the two backlogs in to
one 'live cases' category. This has lead to confusion during oral
evidence provided by Mr Whiteman. Regardless of how the information
is separated out, the "Agency" has an archive of 119,000
lost applicants and 17,000 live cases. This is an unacceptably
high figure and the "Agency" should continue to aim
for a swift reduction of the cases related to both the asylum
and migration backlogs. The Committee welcome Mr Whiteman's commitment
to reducing significantly the number of asylum cases in the controlled
archive by March 2013. However, at the current rate of resolution
it would take almost four years to empty the controlled archive
of asylum and migration cases. The Committee has asked the "Agency"
to provide us with a sample of examples of typical cases held
in the controlled archive so that the Committee can better understand
We are dealing with a 'controlled archive' of asylum
and migration cases - these are cases which weren't traced or
concluded but continue to be reviewed and checked. The Agency
is also dealing with a 'live' group of asylum cases which currently
have barriers to conclusion but continue to be worked on. Cases
may move from the controlled archive to the live cohort, so
there may not be a direct correlation between a change in volumes
and the number of cases concluded from the live cohort. Rob Whiteman
took the Committee through the most recent figures at his evidence
session in May 2012; a summary is below:
||December 2011||March 2012
|Live asylum cohort
|Asylum controlled archive
|Migration controlled archive
Mr Whiteman confirmed at this session that we are confident that
we will close the asylum controlled archive by the end of December
2012. To do this we have introduced a more proactive and robust
process to trace these cases, bulk checking the entire untraced
caseload against a number of external databases including DWP
and HMRC and information held by a major credit reference agency
(Equifax). This is in addition to the checks already being run
against internal Home Office databases.
With regards to the Committee's request for examples of typical
cases, in order to comply with our obligations under the Data
Protection Act we will be providing anonymised case studies to
the Committee in a separate letter.
Conclusion / Recommendation 6
Trust in our asylum system is vital, both for the taxpayer
and for those seeking a safe haven. Country of origin information
is a key tool for those making asylum decisions yet the Independent
Chief Inspector has found flaws in the system which must be addressed
as a matter of urgency. The Committee welcome that the "Agency"
is successful in 67% of asylum appeals, a figure higher than 44%
which is the average appeal win ratethis shows that the
"Agency" making the correct decision in the majority
of asylum cases. However, the "Agency" must get the
decision right first time in a far greater percentage of cases.
A failure rate of 33% indicates a considerable waste in administrative
assets, the time of the tribunal and a burden on applicants who
have been given a wrong decision, so there is financial cost and
human cost, both of which need to be cut to the minimum.
We welcome the Committee's recognition that we make the correct
decision in more than two thirds of asylum cases. Her Majesty's
Courts and Tribunals Service also acknowledge that the majority
of asylum cases are complex, and the fact that an appeal is successful
does not always indicate that an error was made by the UK Border
Agency decision maker.
Nonetheless, we agree with the Committee that getting the decision
right first time is critical. We remain committed to driving up
our appeal win rate, by improving the quality of decisionmaking,
encouraging staff to consider withdrawing cases which are no longer
sustainable (for example due to a change in country situation)
and by increasing our representation rate at court.
To ensure the quality of representation of UK Border Agency asylum
appeals, the UK Border Agency conducts regular audits of asylum
appeals. Between April and September 2011, just under 97% of appeals
met our national quality standard.
We also analysed 862 asylum cases lost at appeal and identified
a number of reasons for this. In 41% of these cases the UK Border
Agency lost the appeal because the Immigration Judge disagreed
with our assessment of the applicant's credibility (that is, our
assessment of the likelihood of their claim being true). We are
therefore working with asylum decision makers to improve credibility
assessments, including through issuing revised guidance developed
in consultation with a number of nongovernmental organisations
in the field of asylum.
Conclusion / Recommendation 7
If the "Agency" is encountering difficulties which
threaten the border security of the UK, such as the Lille loophole,
these difficulties should be resolved as a matter of urgency.
If the "Agency" is unable to resolve these difficulties
quickly, Parliament must be informed. It is unacceptable that
this issue of the Lille loophole only appeared to be resolved
after a public discussion and scrutiny from this Committee. The
Committee has not been told how many of the 160 people who were
stopped at St Pancras last year have claimed asylum in the UK.
Until this problem has been permanently resolved, the Committee
considers it vital that both Ministers and Parliament be regularly
updated on the situation. The Committee expects the "Agency"
to provide us with full and detailed information in the next and
subsequent reports, and for the Permanent Secretary to ensure
that this happens in terms of reports to both Ministers and Parliament.
We have worked closely with the French and Belgian authorities
over a number of years to ensure that Eurostar services are not
vulnerable to targeting by irregular migrants, facilitators and
In his letter to the Committee of 22 February, Rob Whiteman set
out the steps which had been taken to deal with the issue of the
Lille loophole which culminated in Eurostar's decision to suspend
the sale of point to point Brussels to Lille tickets other than
to regular travellers who hold season tickets. After representations
from both the French and Belgian authorities Eurostar resumed
sales of tickets later that week but only on three specific services
Given the small number of services that are now vulnerable to
abuse, Border Force is able to target resources on these trains.
Upon arrival at Lille, passengers with Lille tickets are helped
to disembark and the numbers of Lille tickets sold reconciled
with total disembarkations. Securitas (on behalf of Eurostar)
conduct full ticket checks on passengers between Lille and Calais
where those without a valid St Pancras ticket are instructed to
disembark. Additional immigration checks are then conducted by
Border Force at St Pancras when the trains arrive.
Since this arrangement was put in place the Immigration Minister
has been regularly updated. Our data suggests our response has
been successful in significantly reducing numbers of irregular
migrants seeking to abuse this route, but that the route continues
to be targeted by people traffickers.
We are in discussions with our Belgian and French counterparts
to identify what additional measures might be taken to further
secure the route and allow a reopening of certain ticket sales.
We are also in regular contact with Eurostar to monitor the functioning
of the new system and plan future action to tackle immigration
abuse on their trains.
The Committee has asked for details of the number of people stopped
at St Pancras who subsequently claimed asylum. It is the Government's
view that by releasing this information we would be providing
potentially useful information to those who seek to evade our
immigration controls and facilitate illegal migration. Releasing
port specific information gives an insight into our capabilities
and operational activity at ports. For border security reasons
we are therefore unable to release this information.
Conclusion / Recommendation 8
The Committee expects the UK Border "Agency" to comply
with the request by the Children's Commissioner for further information
on the 'gentleman's agreement'. The Committee also expects the
"Agency" to publish full information about this and
about any similar bilateral agreements.
We are complying fully with the Children's Commissioner's request
for further information on the 'gentleman's agreement' and on
other issues related to the "Landing in Dover" report.
Once the information has been provided to the Commissioner a copy
of it will be placed in the House library.
Conclusion / Recommendation 9
Again, a lack of communication about working practices has
resulted in a situation which is detrimental to the reputation
of the "Agency" and, by extension, the Home Office.
The Committee have previously recommended that the Chief Inspector
of the UKBA carry out a thematic review of the internal communication
of the "Agency"the Committee reiterates the need
for such work to take place.
We agree that timely and efficient internal communication is fundamentally
important to the effective functioning of both UK Border Agency
and Border Force. We have renewed efforts to close the gap between
frontline staff and management and to make sure that crucial operational
information is cascaded through the organisation. Specifically:
In Border Force we have instructed that every member
of staff should expect and receive a daily briefing from their
supervisor before starting their shift. This will include operational
instructions, intelligence updates and management information
that is essential for Border Force Officers to carry out their
duties. The Director General (Brian Moore) has completed a series
of staff events, attended by over 4,000 Border Force staff, to
ensure that Border Officers understand the vision and role of
Border Force and their contribution to it.
In the UK Border Agency, we have introduced a fortnightly
briefing tool for middle managers to inform and discuss changes
in the Agency with their teams. We have introduced fortnightly
telephone conferences for senior managers to convey business critical
information to be cascaded through the organisation. Senior Management
Team members have been instructed to meet groups of staff at all
grades in their own areas (and the wider Agency) to discuss key
management issues and respond to feedback. The Chief Executive
is continuing a tour of the Agency where he is talking to large
groups of staff about his vision and their role. In October, he
and his Board are aiming to meet with and talk to staff in the
Agency face to face.
Within the UK Border Agency the new Strategy and Intelligence
Directorate has established a central Operational Policy and Rules
Unit whose purpose will be to ensure that all policy is implemented
consistently, using clear and straightforward guidance and rules.
The Performance and Compliance team will be responsible for subsequently
monitoring performance to further embed consistency across the
We would welcome any further inspection on internal communications
should the Independent Chief Inspector decide to pursue this recommendation.
Conclusion / Recommendation 10
The "Agency" is still losing almost half of the appeals
brought against it, despite its previous assertions that a change
in the rules regarding evidence would lead to an improvement.
It indicates that the "Agency" is not obeying the law
or sticking to its own rules, this is unacceptable and systems
must be put in place to improve the "Agency's" appeal
Section 19 of the UK Borders Act 2007, which restricts new evidence
and applies to Points Based System appeals, came into effect on
23 May 2011. The statistics contained in the Committee's report
(for quarter 1 201112, April - June) do not reflect the
impact of the measure since it was only in force for just over
a month during that period, and because these statistics group
together outcomes for all incountry nonasylum appeals
without separating Points Based System appeals.
The Agency's management information shows that the introduction
of Section 19 improved the Agency's win rate in Points Based System
appeals by 12% in the six months between June and November 2011
when compared to the six months immediately prior to introduction
and reduced the allowed rate by 15% in the same comparison period.
In addition to Section 19, the UK Border Agency has a number of
initiatives to improve the win rate such as:
- Workshops with caseworkers to learn from determinations and
improve the quality of our Points Based System and Settlement
- Quality checking a proportion of decisions and feeding back
directly to decision makers to improve decision making;
- Analysing appeal determinations to identify trends and implementing
improvements (for example through targeted training). An efeedback
process has been established for presenting officers to provide
feedback on appeals;
- Reviewing appealed entry clearance cases to ensure that any
decision which cannot be sustained (for example due to new evidence
that has been submitted) is withdrawn;
- Presenting staff being encouraged to review their cases prior
to the appeal hearing to ensure the original decision is still
sustainable (for example in light of new evidence that has been
- Continually examining ways to improve our procedures to provide
papers to the courts and presenting staff more efficiently. We
are planning to introduce a new electronic process for asylum
bundles by September 2012 and we will make changes to how bundles
are managed overseas.
Conclusion / Recommendation 11
The Chief Inspector of the UK Border "Agency" recently
found a difference of 50% between the locallyheld and centrallyheld
data on the "Agency's" representation rate at appeals
in Glasgow. The reason for the discrepancy between locally and
centrally recorded figures must be investigated and the Committee
requests a full explanation for the difference when the "Agency"
next gives evidence.
Paragraph 5.28 of the Independent Chief Inspector's (ICI) report
on 'Representation at FirstTier Appeals in Scotland' noted
that "the Unit had been informed centrally that their representation
rates were 95%. However, data collated by the Presenting Officers
Unit in Glasgow from the manually recorded court lists revealed
a representation rate of 67% in September, and a year to date
representation rate of 45% for 2010". This would appear to
indicate a discrepancy of 50%.
We understand that the ICI's report refers to asylum representation
rates rather than for all appeal types. At paragraph 5.42 of the
Independent Chief Inspector's report it was acknowledged that
there was an issue with the Case Information Database (CID) system
which could lead to inaccuracies in data subsequently extracted
for asylum appeal representation. Following the inspection we
took appropriate steps to remedy this situation to ensure their
data quality was more accurate in asylum appeals and this is reflected
in their centrally recorded asylum representation rates falling
to levels closer to local management information through 2011.
The Scotland and Northern Ireland region has significantly improved
its representation rate since the inspection and in the early
months of 2012 is much closer to achieving 100%.
In the UK Border Agency's response to the Chief Inspector's report
we stated that a number of measures were in place to enhance the
quality of management information being taken from the CID system
in relation to appeals.
Conclusion / Recommendation 12
During the first quarter of 2011 the UK Border "Agency"
has informed us that its representation rate was, on average,
83%. The aspiration to improve this figure to 90% is only a first
step towards correcting the system and the Committee is disappointed
that in the first quarter of 2011-12 there has been negligible
improvement in the percentage of cases dismissed and allowed.
It is crucial the "Agency's" success rates at appeals
to increase in the next quarter.
We continue to maintain a focus on representation at appeals and
seek to maximise the use of available presenting staff. In a number
of regions we have consistently maintained 100% representation
at the First Tier Tribunal. Furthermore, the Specialist Appeals
Team has maintained a 100% representation rate at the Upper Tribunal.
A number of measures such as crosstraining staff and increasing
the frequency with which staff attend court have been implemented
to achieve this goal.
Our initiatives for improving the win rate are set out under recommendation
10 above. By taking steps to improve decision quality this will
enable us to get more decisions right first time and consequently
reduce the number of appeals in the system, enabling us to improve
our representation rate.
Conclusion / Recommendation 13
As of July 2011, the eBorders system was collecting
details of about 55% of passengers and crew on airlines, with
no coverage of ferries or trains. The original target, to collect
95% of passenger and crew details by December 2010 was missed,
as were all other previously timetabled deadlines. It is difficult
to see how the scheme can be applied to all rail and sea passengers
by the dates detailed above, given that air passengers are still
not yet fully covered. The Committee believes the assumption that
the maritime and rail sectors will implement the system in under
two years is overly optimistic. On the other hand, it is difficult
to see the point of all these systemsand the costs and
bureaucracy involvedif they are not comprehensive. The
Committee certainly needs clarity both on the policy of the Home
Office in this regard and on the practicalities of achieving a
clear and comprehensive system, as well as on the performance
of the "Agency".
We believe that the technical ability to collect data from the
rail and maritime sector can be delivered by December 2014. We
are working closely with these sectors, and European partners,
to find an operationally viable way to capture this data. We already
have juxtaposed controls on the vast majority of rail and sea
passengers from continental Europe, meaning that they are checked
by British officials before they travel. eBorders now has
the technical capability to collect data from General Aviation
(GA) and General Maritime (GM) and will have the same capability
for ferries from June 2012. The eBorders programme will
continue to work with the GM sector to ensure that specific concerns
that exist within the leisure boating sector are taken into account
as part of the rollout.
Clearly our preference is to have 100% coverage of eborders
on all routes. However the principal benefits of the advance provision
of information on travellers prior to their arrival in the UK
are not dependent on achieving 100% coverage. The numbers of arrests
and seizures tend to rise in line with coverage of routes. Some
benefits of the system do need a higher level of coverage to be
valid but not necessarily 100%.
Conclusion / Recommendation 14
The Committee has been informed that all nonEU aviation
will be covered by the eBorders scheme in time for the
2012 Olympics. The system currently covers 95% of nonEU
aviation and the "Agency" hopes that it will cover 100%
by April 2012. Given the vast security implications of the Olympics,
the Committee will be closely monitoring progress in this area
to ensure the "Agency" meets its aims.
We achieved the target of collecting data on all nonEU/EEA
routes during April as planned. This means that by the time of
the Olympics we will have full coverage for those flying to and
from the UK from all nonEU destinations. eBorders
is one of a comprehensive suite of checks being carried out for
the Olympics. All passengers will still be subject to full checks
at the point of entry to the UK even if they have been prechecked
Conclusion / Recommendation 15
The "Agency" needs to provide convincing evidence,
for its own staff as well as the general public, that the eGates
system is no less reliable than passport checks carried out by
The checks carried out by the eGates on passengers and
their documents are designed to match those undertaken at the
manual control by a Border Force Officer. They carry out a range
of document and watchlist checks in addition to the biometric
verification of the passenger using facial recognition technology.
These checks ensure that the document and chip being presented
are genuine, have not been tampered with or unofficially altered,
and that the passenger presenting them is eligible to use the
The eGates are monitored by a Border Force Officer to identify
anything untoward including the behaviour of the passenger. Any
variance from what is expected either from the passenger or the
document they have presented is reported to the monitoring officer
and the passenger referred for manual checking.
We work closely with our suppliers to ensure we provide a good
eGate service and we have recently improved our service
management contract to a 24/7 service. The resilience of the eGate
system is achieved by having banks of eGates that allow
the service to continue even when one gate develops a fault.
Conclusion / Recommendation 16
£9 million has been spent on an iris recognition system
which has lasted only six years and its sole value appears to
have been that it provided data for the eGates. This money
could have been better spent on border staffat least 60
immigration officers could have been employed with the money spent
on IRIS. The Committee recommends that, in order to avoid another
costly investment in equipment which will not last, the "Agency"
publish the data it has collected on the eGates trials
which it is currently running. The Committee would also like the
"Agency" to inform the Committee as to what it intends
to do with the data collected by the IRIS programme and whether
the retinal scans will be destroyed following the mothballing
of the scanners at Heathrow and Gatwick.
The £9 million covers the installation costs of 12 IRIS gates
and ten enrolment stations at ten locations along with the backend
database and monitoring system. In addition, the cost also includes
support and maintenance over the six year period (20052011
inclusive). Over five million passengers have used IRIS during
However the lifespan of any IT equipment is finite. IRIS is planned
for closure because the system is close to the end of its useful
life. IRIS images (not retinal scans), along with all personal
data, will be destroyed six months after decommissioning.
We are currently developing a strategic plan for automation but
it is likely that IRIS as a biometric will not be used. It is
not included in ePassports nor is it widely used by UK
Government departments and law enforcement agencies as a means
of identifying individuals.
The first eGates trial in 2008/9 focussed on the feasibility
of using this technology at the UK border and was trialled with
gates at Manchester and Stansted. The success of this led to additional
gates being installed at eight further locations to further test
aspects of operational capability during 2009. The final phase
in 2010 and 2011 tested reliability and availability, with a recommendation
to use gates as part of normal business operations.
We regularly share data on gate reliability and availability with
external partners such as port operators. Border Force is committed
to the continued use and expansion of eGates and it is
anticipated that further automation will be developed in the future
for a potentially wider range of passenger types.
Conclusion / Recommendation 17
It is unacceptable that the "Agency" refuses to recognise
a term which is widely recognised within both Government and Parliament.
Bogus colleges are harmful to our societythey destroy trust
in our immigration system, they facilitate entry to those who
have dishonourable motives and they damage the UK's reputation
for high quality education. The Committee recommends that the
UK Border "Agency" make all inspections visits to Tier
4 sponsors unannounced.
We recognise the term bogus college but we prefer not to use the
term in order to avoid being misleading. This is because it is
not the role of the UK Border Agency (and nor does it have the
powers) to close down bogus colleges. To hold a sponsor licence
under Tier 4 any educational establishment must have been inspected
by both an approved educational oversight body (QAA, ISI or Ofsted)
as well as by the UK Border Agency. This double inspection of
educational standards and immigration compliance ensures that
an entirely bogus operation cannot exist as a sponsor under Tier
4 in the first place.
The role of the UK Border Agency is to ensure that these approved
institutions comply with the conditions of their sponsor licence.
This is where we can and do take action to suspend and/or remove
the licence if we have evidence of noncompliance. However
even failure to comply with sponsor obligations is not necessarily
indicative of a totally bogus institution.
Where we have concerns about the compliance of the sponsors we
will nearly always undertake unannounced visits. However, not
all visits are to investigate potential noncompliance and
therefore preannouncing them is necessary. For example,
undertaking a full audit on an institution involves the production
of hundreds of student files and interviews with a considerable
number of students and staff from across a number of school/faculties
who will need to be available when our officers visit. Other visits
may be undertaken at the sponsor's request, for example to help
review a new system or to resolve a system query.
Conclusion / Recommendation 18
Extrapolating the figures from August and September 2011, it
appears that approximately 700,000 visa applications a year are
from people who have applied previously. The Committee recommends
that the "Agency" inform us as to whether an applicant
could have legitimate reasons for applying for three or more visas
and assesses the implications of imposing a limit on the number
of times an individual can apply for a visa, within a set period.
As the Committee has said previously, the best way of dealing
with bogus students, reluctant spouses and sham marriages is to
reintroduce face to face interviews with entry clearance officers
as a matter of urgency. A major part of our next evidence session
will focus on the entry clearance operation.
Around 120,000 applicants during the two month period of August
and September 2011 had previously applied for a visa, of which
around 36,000 had applied for the third or more time. There are
a number of legitimate reasons why we might receive multiple applications
from an individual over time including regular business travellers
or those visiting family. Applicants may also legitimately be
required to make a new application whilst switching from one visa
category to another.
We are always willing to consider new ways to prevent abuse and
fraudulent applications. However, there would be a number of possible
adverse consequences of imposing a limit on the number of visa
applications that an individual can submit. First of all it may
deter genuine travellers, both business and tourist. Secondly
it may encourage visitors to apply for more longterm visas
when in some cases we might prefer applicants to apply for short
term visas in order to better assess compliance on a regular basis.
For the visitor route we already have rules in place which allow
us to prevent reapplications from those refused for fraud or deception
in their application.
We may also use interviews for high risk cases where there is
clear evidence that this approach will be beneficial. Following
a recent pilot into more extensive use of interviewing we are
considering how best to extend this approach.
Conclusion / Recommendation 19
The Committee welcomes the reviews being undertaken by the
NAO and central Home Office Finance into the "Agency's"
financial and debt management processes. The Committee expects
to receive a copy of both reviews and hope that the changes will
be apparent in the annual report and accounts that the "Agency"
produces for 2011-12.
The National Audit Office presented its review of Financial Management
in the Home Office to Parliament on 26 April 2012. This reviewed
the core financial management practices of all the Home Office's
executive agencies as well as 'core' Home Office.
The report concludes that financial control is good (recommendation
e), that 'financial management is broadly at the required level
for its business needs' (Para 1.13), and that the Home Office
is delivering value for money in terms of exercising financial
control over its core business activities.
The review of income using the 'managing risk of financial loss'
toolkit is reaching a conclusion, and any recommendations will
be incorporated into the UK Border Agency's programme of civil
collection penalty rates.
Conclusion / Recommendation 20
The Committee welcomes the reduction in the number of letters
sent by MPs and peers. The Committee would like to see this reduce
further still. The Committee will be conducting a survey to discover
how satisfied Members are with the service they are receiving
and ask what more can be done to improve it further. The Committee
will share the data we gather with the House and the UK Border
We will continue to work with Members and their offices to reduce
the number of letters they need to send.
For this reason we welcome the survey the Committee will be conducting
as this will provide more details on specific areas for improvement
and complement the satisfaction assessment work we are already
It should be noted that MPs write to us for a number of reasons
which may not be indicative of poor performance.
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