Officials ‘lose track of enough immigrants to fill Cambridge’

Border officials have lost track of a population of asylum seekers and migrants the size of Cambridge, a critical report by MPs has said.

UK Border Agency figures showed the number of “lost” cases had tripled in six months from 40,500 in March to 124,000 in September.

The so-called controlled archive had become a “dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant”, MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said.

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The “controlled archive”, the MPs said, was “a bureaucratic term which hides the true nature of a Government department’s activity and is designed to deflect attention away from it”.

It would more appropriately be called “an archive of lost applicants”, they said.

The archive includes cases in which around 98,000 asylum seekers cannot be found and the agency has no idea whether or not the applicant even remains in the UK, legally or otherwise.

It also includes around 26,000 migrants following a review of cases, most of which are more than eight years old, and involve those who have overstayed their visas or who have been refused an extension of leave, such as students.

The MPs said: “Whilst we appreciate the difficulties involved in tracing people with whom the agency have lost contact, usually for a period of several years, it is clear that the controlled archive has become a dumping ground for cases on which the agency has given up.

“The controlled archive has increased significantly as the deadlines for the legacy backlog and the migration case review have approached.

“From 18,000 files in November 2010, the archive now contains 124,000 files, roughly equivalent to the population of Cambridge.”

The committee also said it saw no reason why the controlled archive should ever increase further, given the end of a backlog of up to 450,000 asylum cases and the end of the UKBA’s review of outstanding migration cases.

Keith Vaz, the committee’s chairman, said: “The UK Border Agency is still not providing the efficient, effective service that Parliament expects.

“The so-called ‘controlled archive’ has become a dumping ground for cases where the UK Border Agency has lost track of the applicant.”

He added: “The Prime Minister himself recently called for members of the public to provide intelligence on immigrants.

“There is little point in encouraging people to do this if the border agency continues to fail to manage the intelligence it receives or to keep track of those who apply to stay.”

Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant said: “These numbers betray a shocking failure at the heart of this Tory-led Government.

“The Government’s chaotic approach to immigration enforcement has meant 100,000 people have been quietly dumped into the ‘untraceable’ file and borders staff have given up on dealing with them.”

The row surfaced as police revealed that a Polish gang trafficked more than 200 people to the UK as part of a £2m benefit fraud scam.

Investigators claim criminals tricked foreign victims into signing papers to open bank accounts with the promise of work in Britain.

A two-year Scotland Yard campaign, supported by Customs officials and Polish police, culminated this week in more than 30 arrests in both countries.

Investigators claim at least 230 victims were targeted in Poland.

Two gang suspects – a man and a woman, both in their 40s – were arrested in London and bailed today until next month.

The gang was said to have used victims’ details to apply for more than £2m of tax credits and other benefits.

Cash from the benefits was siphoned from the UK accounts to banks in Poland.