MPs slam immigration chaos

27 Jan 00
The Commons Committee of Public Accounts has castigated those responsible for the chaos over immigration applications which caused 'enormous personal distress to over 200,000 applicants and their families'.

28 January 2000

In a report on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's casework programme, the MPs criticise the private finance deal involving Siemens Business Services in April 1996 which only added to the delays.

The committee said: 'It is deplorable that these backlogs have continued for so long and that even if the directorate's present target for clearing asylum cases is met, they are likely to continue to rise in the immediate future rather than fall.'

The report was published as figures were released by the Home Office showing that a record number of asylum applications were made in 1999. More than 71,000 applications were received, a 50% rise on the previous year.

The MPs added: 'It is particularly disappointing that the backlogs increased as a result of an unrealistic attempt to move staff and re-engineer business processes at the same time' – a reference to Siemens' involvement.

The directorate's management of the resulting problems was described as inadequate. The backlog of 102,870 unprocessed asylum claims has broken the 100,000 mark for the first time.

David Davis, the committee chairman, said: 'Where citizens depend on continuity of service, contingency plans should always be robust when planning major change. Otherwise, as in this case, the risk is effectively transferred not to the private sector but to the general public.'

The 1999 record asylum applications drew immediate fire from opposition politicians accusing the government of being ' a soft touch' for immigrants.

Opposition spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe called upon Home Secretary Jack Straw to 'send out a tough message which will deter bogus asylum seekers who make up the overwhelming majority of those numbers'.


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