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Home Office ’is taking action to deal with immigration case backlog’

By Richard Johnstone | 24 January 2013

The Home Office has pledged to tackle a new backlog of more than 16,000 immigration cases identified by the chief inspector of borders and immigration in a report published today.

Chief inspector John Vine discovered the cases after examining how the UK Border Agency deals with applications from people outside the European Economic Area to settle in the UK following marriage to a resident.

The report, which looked at cases between April and October last year, found the majority of decisions taken were ‘reasonable’ and made in accordance with immigration rules. The UKBA carried out security checks against all applicants in a 60-case sample to establish whether they had previous convictions or adverse immigration histories. The agency also made good use of information obtained overseas to detect people who should not be allowed to enter or remain in the UK.

However, the backlog of cases was ‘completely unacceptable’, Vine said. The majority of cases – 14,000 – requests for reconsideration of decisions to refuse leave to remain. A further 2,100 cases were people awaiting an initial decision, and some were more than a decade old.

‘I expect the agency to deal with both types of case as a matter of urgency,’ he added.

The inspection report made eight recommendations for improvement, and said the UKBA should ‘urgently address the backlog’. It should also adopt a systematic approach to reviewing and analysing appeal outcomes in marriage cases, in order to improve the quality of decisions.

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesman said the majority of issues identified had already been resolved.

‘The agency is taking action to deal with historic backlogs and has a transformation plan that will put the agency on a surer footing,’ he said.

The spokesman highlighted that some of those who had asked for reconsideration were ‘trying to circumvent the appeals process’.

He added: ‘We've changed the rules to make clear that those not happy with the original decision should re-apply or appeal and if they choose not to, they should leave the UK voluntarily. We are contacting them to make sure they do this, but if they refuse we will enforce their removal.'

All the recommendations were accepted by the UKBA, which said it would ‘work assiduously and concertedly to ensure that they are actioned’.

The agency’s response stated: ‘UK Border Agency is currently focusing on
service improvement plans which aim to drive down the number of cases awaiting decision by introducing process improvements and extra caseworking capacity, delivering quicker throughput and better customer service.

‘The successful delivery of these plans will also reduce the need for repeat checks. However, some cases are subject to further, more in-depth consideration where they are more complex and repeat checks are advisable to reduce risk and safeguard security.’

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