Select Committee on Home Affairs Additional Written Evidence

42.  Sixth supplementary memorandum submitted by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Home Office


Additional questions from the Committee

There seems to be a large number of organisations and units involved to some degree with assessing and dealing with abuse of immigration controls—UKvisas Risk Assessment Units, the Immigration Service, the IND Intelligence Service, the police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency [SOCA], Reflex [the anti-trafficking task force]—and each of these seems to have separate computer systems. What are the areas in which effective information sharing is lacking? What needs to be done in practice to ensure better operational interaction?

  A review of IND intelligence structures was commissioned by the IND Intelligence Service (INDIS) Director, Dave Wilson, in 2003. This highlighted deficiencies at that time in IND's intelligence gathering capability around such areas as the placement of intelligence structures, processes and the deployment of staff resources. Over the last two years following specific tasking from the IND Senior Executive Group INDIS has led on improving intelligence flows and the analysis of that intelligence across the whole of IND and working to implement structural and procedural measures to improve intelligence flows across the organisation to enable threats to the integrity of immigration controls to be readily identified and appropriate action to be taken to mitigate such threats. This information is shared with UK visas and via FCO with overseas posts.

  Intelligence capability has now been established across most IND Directorates to assess potential abuses to the immigration control, in respect of all degrees of criminality, and to recommend preventative action. Work is continuing with NASS, Appeals and UKvisas to fully establish integrated intelligence structures that will enhance the organisation's ability to effectively identify all threats to the immigration control.

  Each IND intelligence unit adheres to the principles of the National Intelligence Model (NIM)—a business model designed to deliver intelligence-led working to law enforcement. The model is widely used within UK Police Forces, Reflex and SOCA and allows a commonality of understanding across organisations and is designed to support the effective sharing of intelligence across organisational boundaries and deliver better operational interaction.

  IND intelligence units within INDIS, Enforcement & Removals, Border Control, Managed Migration and Asylum Support, Caseworking and Appeals Directorates now use a new intelligence IT system, Mycroft, which has been deployed over the last 18 months and now provides a common intelligence database to which each Directorate can contribute. Mycroft allows for a structured process for investigating criminal targets suspected of abusing the immigration system, whilst providing a strategic overview of immigration organised criminality and preventing different units across IND from investigating the same individual in isolation.

  The very high volume of visa applications worldwide (2.5 million in 2004-05) puts particular pressure on UKvisas in respect of balancing demand and service delivery with maintaining an effective control function. UKvisas, by nature of its overseas front-line work, has a valuable contribution to make to the knowledge base of the wider intelligence community. INDIS has worked with UKvisas over the last two years to establish a network of Risk Assessment Units (RAUs) worldwide to improve intelligence gathering so as to identify and manage the risk of immigration abuse and support a better informed decision making agenda. However, currently RAUs do not have access to effective analytical resources or a secure IT system to facilitate the effective flow of intelligence both between RAUs and the UK. The UKvisas intelligence function was recently examined as part of a joint Prime Minister's Delivery Unit/UKvisas review which has recently made specific recommendations regarding the proposed enhancement of UKvisas intelligence systems, processes and structures overseas. A particular issue though is that UKvisas RAUs have adopted the IND intelligence system that preceded Mycroft. The current use of that system overseas does not allow individual units to automatically exchange data with UK Visas in London or other Risk Assessment Units overseas. Similarly, at present intelligence data held on Mycroft is not automatically available to RAUs overseas. The possible deployment of the Mycroft system overseas within the RAUs would have clear benefits in terms of improving secure intelligence flows, the analytical capability of RAUs and improvement to the operational interaction between the overseas arm of the immigration control and the UK.

  On general data exchange, sections 20 and 21 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 created a statutory gateway for data exchange to and from Chief Officers of Police, the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) the Director General of the National Crime Squad (NCS), and from 1 April 2006 SOCA, amongst others. In all circumstances intelligence is shared and action is taken with partner agencies under the protocols of the National Intelligence Model.

  UK Police Forces, Reflex and SOCA remain key operational partners in the fight against organised immigration crime and staff are seconded to and from the relevant agencies in joint working initiatives across the organisation. At a national level IND has allocated 75 posts to SOCA, whilst regionally it has deployed staff to Reflex joint units in London, Essex, Kent, Merseyside and Yorkshire.

  SOCA has been provided with direct access to the IND intelligence system Mycroft and arrangements are in place with other agencies to allow checks on a case-specific basis. IND has access to police systems, such as PNC, and is engaged with the police Impact Programme to secure access to the Impact Nominal Index (INI), the precursor to a national police intelligence database.

  UKvisas has put structures for information sharing are in place and continues to enhance operational effectiveness by, for example, agency secondments (INDIS, WP) and the appointment of liaison officers. The imminent restructuring and expansion of the Control Quality section of UKvisas, a review of best practice and greater co-ordination will also further improve operational interaction.

  A key element in improving operational interaction is the e-Borders programme, co-ordinated by IND in partnership with the Police Service, Intelligence Agencies, HM Revenue and Customs and UKvisas. The programme will create a modernised, integrated border control system by providing the agencies with information to meet counter terrorism, national security, immigration and law enforcement requirements. The pilot for e-Borders, (Project Semaphore) has had a positive impact on the operational effectiveness of the agencies—as a result of greater data sharing. Recent interventions have included police arrests of persons wanted for serious offences; immigration enforcement action in cases of document abuse and visas obtained by deception; and HMRC seizures of tobacco and drugs. Legislation currently going through Parliament in the IAN Bill is designed to maximise opportunities for data-sharing under e-Borders, while adhering to DPA principles.

Tom Dowdall has provided an example of shared working—a formal referrals process introduced in September 2004 where information about the visas held by arriving passengers can be passed back from ports to UKvisas. What does UKvisas do with this information?

  UKvisas sends the details to the Entry Clearance Manager at the Posts concerned who investigate and comment on the cases identified. The feedback is used to assist local profiles and to address any training needs.

Are you developing more specialist expertise amongst front-line staff, such as the dedicated student assessment team in Lagos, or the country-specific teams dealing with Highly Skilled Migrant applications?

  UKvisas has developed specialist teams in some posts where staff numbers and the nature of the traffic suggests this is sensible. For example, many of our larger posts have specialist teams to deal with student applications. The Committee is also aware of the specialist teams in Pakistan and Bangladesh that deal with forced marriage cases. A balance needs to be struck between specialism and sharing the skills across the whole team, so many Posts rotate staff into their specialist teams.

  Border Control provides specialist training to members of staff engaged in criminal investigations through their membership of specialist teams and units. The investigative skills training provided to Criminal Investigation Team (CIT) members is three weeks in duration and covers topics from sources of law and interviewing to case file preparation and evidence gathering. The training enables CIT staff to investigate a number of criminal offences including forgery and counterfeiting, theft, facilitation, deception and perjury. In addition to this, three weeks arrest training is provided to officers equipping them with the skills to exercise powers of arrest, search and seizure. Border Control has approximately 50 officers of varying grades (HMI to IO) trained in this area of work, operating from Heathrow, Gatwick, Croydon and Stansted. Border Control also provides bespoke training for operational staff in other areas including specialist training for staff dealing with children and staff involved in surveillance operations.

  Within Managed Migration, casework is streamed into three distinct areas; General Group, Work Permits (UK) and Nationality. Within General Group there is further specialisation in particular groups and teams. This means that caseworkers in these teams receive relevant information and training, build up specialist expertise and knowledge in specific case types, can review cases more efficiently and more easily identify patterns of suspected abuse. As an example, caseworkers on the European group have shown skill in picking up abuse through marriage and other documentation submitted with applications.

  Two teams have specialist expertise in interviewing techniques, one in Sheffield one in Croydon. They deal with marriage applications and applications from unmarried partners and the Sheffield team has recently interviewed applicants for UK ancestry to try and identify the nature and extent of abuse via this route.

  The specialist Marriage Team in Croydon deals mainly with complex Certificate of Approval (COA) for Marriage or Civil Partnership applications. The team also operates the hotline for registrars who have immigration queries and monitors the Section 24 suspicious marriage reports submitted by registrars. The team in Sheffield also deals with all domestic violence cases.

  There is a specialist team in Croydon dealing with applications for discretionary leave to remain in the UK for NHS medical treatment from applicants with serious medical conditions (including HIV/AIDS). These cases are covered by specialist policy guidance and developing caselaw. The team also maintains up-to-the-minute information about the availability of medical treatment abroad, collated from a broad range of sources.

  We are currently reorganising work in Sheffield and Coydon so that all student cases are dealt with on dedicated teams, instead of spread within the general casework mix. This will improve our ability to spot trends and to introduce the requirements of the Points Based System. Additionally, the Student Task Force Team in Croydon was set up in 2004 as a specific anti-abuse team, and focuses on dealing with three areas of potential abuse: college visits, non-attendance and casework. Another team specialises in applications made via the Student Batch Scheme. Applications for British Nationality are considered by dedicated teams in Liverpool. Within Nationality casework there is further specialisation on particular application types.

  We aim to create more headroom for intelligence driven casework, building on experience of the student work and marriage teams, by streamlining caseworking processes. This will be needed as the Managed Migration Intelligence Units extend their reach, and develop the caseworker-intelligence links.

  There are also a number of specialist teams in Border Control. The establishment of a specialist "Interviewing Minors" course followed the publication of the Unaccompanied Minors Best Practice in 2003. A commitment has been given to Ministers that 10% of staff at ports and Asylum Screening Units will receive specialist training, resulting in continuous coverage of staff at these locations.

  Most ports now have "Minors Teams" made up of specially trained staff, who deal with all cases of unaccompanied children. These teams, as encouraged in the Best Practice, have begun to form working relationships with their local authorities and many have established good practices with social services. Currently minors' teams have been established at the following Border Control locations:

StanstedHull/Humber Ports
ASU CroydonRobin Hood Airport
ASU LiverpoolCalais/Cheriton
Gatwick NorthNewcastle Airport
Gatwick SouthDurham Tees Valley Airport
Heathrow Terminal 1Harwich International Airport
Heathrow Terminal 2Leeds Bradford Airport
Heathrow Terminal 3Birmingham International Airport
Heathrow Terminal 4Liverpool John Lennon Airport
ManchesterLondon City Airport

  A three day course provides specialist interview training and the skills needed in order to recognise signs of children at risk. Areas covered by the course are: the legislative and policy framework, understanding the children's experience prior to arrival in the UK, dealing with adults, interview techniques, managing age assessment and joint working with other professionals. Steps are being taken to ensure that ports and ASUs are able to reach their 10% target of trained staff and to maintain that figure once met.

  To date 495 immigration officers from ports and ASUs have been trained in interviewing children. It is envisaged that by the end of this current programme of courses, 607 will have been trained. Measures will be put in place to enable UKIS to train further staff on a rolling programme of training in order to maintain an effective level of coverage.

  The setting up of a joint-working team of Immigration and Metropolitan Police staff was one of the recommendations of the Paladin report. This team, known as the Paladin Team, began its work at Heathrow in October 2005. An immigration officer and a chief immigration officer work alongside Metropolitan Police Child Protection Officers to safeguard vulnerable children who pass through Heathrow airport.

Are the pay, conditions and job structures for immigration officers, IND caseworkers and entry clearance officers good enough to get high-quality staff making high-quality decisions, or do they need more money, more time and better promotion prospects?

  There is no evidence that there is any difficulty in recruiting high quality staff directly linked to pay levels and, over the last two years, 23,650 people have applied to work at IND. In addition, a survey was carried out by the non-Agency Home Office to benchmark the Home Office pay scales for the Caseworker grade against the external rates prior to the 2005 Pay Award. This indicated that the Caseworker pay scale was marginally below market but this was addressed at the 2005 Pay Award. At ECO level we are able to deliver staff to fill all vacancies for which the Home Office is responsible and robust selection processes ensure that quality is maintained.

  The department has successfully improved the way that it recruits employees and has recruited very good quality people for the recent campaign to provide Immigration Officers to meet the Tipping the Balance targets. Work is also currently being undertaking in the Immigration Service to address any issues with and to improve the career and promotion routes for this grade.

  Retention rates for all of these grades are high at [over 99%] which indicates that any dissatisfaction with pay and conditions does not prompt our permanent employees to leave.

What are the estimated non-capital costs of introducing fingerscanning worldwide, including testing, training, staff development, staff time and ongoing running costs?

  Our current estimate of the non-capital costs of introducing fingerscanning into the visa issuing process is £7 million, including all staff costs. Following full rollout, we estimate running costs will be £10 million per annum, including IT service charges, technical support and maintenance and the anticipated impact on staff time (UKvisas).

How many people have been refused a visa so far as a result of fingerprint analysis? What is the projected level once fingerscanning has been introduced world-wide?

  The "proof of concept" pilots are already making a real difference to the integrity of visa decisions in the nine posts where they have been introduced. In those pilots, 321 applicants have so far been refused as a result of a biometric match.

  It is very difficult to predict future refusal rates on the basis of a small number of pilots and particularly to attribute projected refusals specifically to the capture and matching of biometric data. For example, it is difficult to project how many potential applicants will be deterred from applying because of the much greater risk of discovery of previous immigration abuse as a result of biometric matching. We anticipate the global introduction of fingerscanning will have a lasting deterrent effect.

What is your current projection of annual numbers of low-skilled migrants entering the UK from outside the EEA in the future?

  As set out in the Five Year Strategy we intend to phase out low-skilled migration in response to the numbers of workers available from the newly enlarged EU. Employers are expected to recruit from within the UK and the EU before looking to migrant labour from outside the EU. Tier 3 of the new Points-Based System will provide limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill specific temporary labour shortages. Only where there is an identified shortage which cannot be met from within the UK or EU will a scheme under Tier 3 be set up.

  The most recent data from the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) show that migrant workers are still coming to the UK in large numbers and filling our low-skilled vacancies. Nearly 50,000 applicants registered on the WRS in the fourth quarter of 2005 compared with just over 42,000 in the same period in 2004. 79% of all applicants on the WRS are earning between £4.50 and £6.00 per hour.

  No future low-skilled migration routes are planned at present. The Sectors Based Scheme (SBS), which currently accounts for 3,500 migrants each year, will be terminated in December 2006. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) will be phased out by the end of 2010. The SAWS quota is currently 16,250 per year, but this will be reduced when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU in either 2007 or 2008.

You said that immigration from EU accession countries has resulted in cuts in other low skilled schemes, for instance closing the hospitality sector scheme. Could you provide more details, including:

Dates of the changes

  The Sector Based Scheme (SBS) hospitality was terminated on 30 June 2005. The Seasonal and Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) quota was cut from 25,000 in 2004 to 16,250 in 2005.

Numbers of accession-country nationals and non EEA nationals in each relevant sector before and after the cuts

  In 2004, the quota for SBS hospitality was 9,000. Between May 2004 and December 2005 over 70,000 applicants registered on the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) in the hospitality and catering sector.

  In 2003, almost 12,000 SAWS participants were accession country nationals; the remaining 13,000 were made up of non-EEA nationals. Between May 2004 and December 2005 39,000 applicants have registered on the WRS in the agriculture sector.

Numbers of the vacancies in each relevant sector before and after the cuts

  The National Statistics Labour Market Survey shows that the Hotel and Restaurant sector had 56,000 vacancies in June 2004 and 55,600 vacancies in June 2005.

  The Labour Market Survey does not provide vacancy figures for the Agriculture sector. Many of the vacancies filled by SAWS are seasonal in nature and therefore do not constitute a permanent vacancy. WRS applications are also seasonal in nature (over 20,000 applications in July, and 10,000 in December).

Could you please supply copies of the fraud guidance circulated to all front-line staff (a blue A4 publication which Dave Wilson brought with him)?

  Please see documents sent separately [not printed].

Can suspected fraudulent wage slips be checked against Inland Revenue records to see if the person is actually being employed and paid as claimed?

  Yes, Managed Migration has an agreement with the Inland Revenue that enables checks on suspect P60s to be made with them. In addition, where caseworkers suspect that fraudulent wage slips may have been submitted there are alternative options available to them. They may make enquiries direct with the employer. Or if there are doubts about the existence of the employer searches can be made on the Companies House website as well as BT and websites. If doubts still remain about pay slips caseworkers are authorised to write to applicants or their representatives asking them to provide written confirmation from Inland Revenue that they are employed as claimed.

What are the arrangements for sensitive handling of in-country settlement applications involving suspected forced marriages?

  Managed Migration has specialist expertise in interviewing techniques for cases involving marriage and unmarried partners. Where caseworkers are informed at interview that one of the parties is a victim of a forced marriage, help and support (including a "forced marriage" leaflet) is provided along with an explanation of the implications of that person continuing to support the application.

  Managed Migration Intelligence Unit (MMIU) receives allegations via Evidence and Enquiries (E&E) on a "forced marriage" proforma. Reports are completed and forwarded to the most appropriate unit (including local Intelligence and Enforcement units) for relevant action to take place.

  In addition there is a specialist Forced Marriage Unit which is a joint operation between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Allegations received are dealt with in the same way as other units so where there is a duty of care the allegation is recorded and disseminated to the appropriate unit for action to take place.

How many applications from spouses from the Indian sub-continent are refused each year, and what proportion of the total number of applications is this?

  Please see attached excel spreadsheet [not printed].

What work is going on with the African community to tackle the problem of children trafficked within that community?

  We are working closely with the police, statutory agencies and community groups to ensure that children in new immigrant groups are protected from abuse. This is particularly important in those communities within which children are believed to be trafficked. Following concerns about child abuse which might be linked to belief in "possession" or "witchcraft", the Metropolitan Police Service set up Project Violet in 2005. The operation supports the education of new community groups in acceptable and legal methods of child discipline in the UK, and initiates intelligence-led investigations into allegations of ritualistic belief-related child abuse to identify and prosecute any offenders. The African community is a particular focus of this activity. We will also be promoting increased collaboration between statutory agencies, community organisations and faith groups through the London Child Protection Committee's Community Partnership project. This aims to build upon the positive stance that London communities have taken, and continue to take, in their willingness to protect children, and seeks to ensure that London's diverse communities know how to report safeguarding concerns, and are comfortable working in partnership with statutory agencies.

  Home Office officials are working closely together with the Police and non-Government organisations which have specialist knowledge of both child trafficking and new immigrant communities, to help improve intelligence gathering and understanding of cultural issues, thus enabling better informed and more effective interventions. An example of this approach is the commissioning of London based charity AFRUCA (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) to deliver a series of focus groups with people drawn from the new African communities in London to elicit their understanding and knowledge of the reasons behind the trafficking and smuggling of children from West African countries. This work will help to inform the development of the national action pan to combat human trafficking.

  We have also commissioned AFRUCA to engage with African communities within London, setting up a number of forums for members of African communities to raise child-related issues regarding the current public consultation on the UK Action Plan to combat human trafficking. On completion, AFRUCA will evaluate the responses received, and produce a summary of the findings arising from the forums. It is envisaged that these forums will not only enable members of the African community to engage with Government policy, but will also assist with the communicating with these communities as to the dangers and issues surrounding child trafficking.

  In addition, IND is working to maintain the border and immigration controls to ensure those entitled to come to the UK can do so, and those with no rights of entry do not; and is in the process of re-establishing a group of stakeholders to consider the strategic crossing points between immigration policies and the need to safeguard children and young people.

  In 2003, a multi-agency project board set up Operation Paladin Child which was a three month scoping study was set up to quantify the origins and numbers of children transiting through Heathrow or arriving as Unaccompanied Minors. The project board oversaw the operation with representatives from social services, police, immigration service, and the NSPCC.

  Additionally, over the last year the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in the Home Office has put in place a number of initiatives to ensure that children who are at risk are identified and referred to the appropriate agencies. These include:

—    Appointing a "Children's Champion";

—    Establishing a Children's Taskforce—whose remit is to ensure that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate has adequate safeguards in place to identify children who may be at risk;

—    Work on setting up a National Register of Unaccompanied Children;

—    Establishment of an Advisory Group to support the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in dealing with child protection issues—the group includes representatives from NSPCC, local authorities, the Metropolitan Police, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and CAFCASS;

—    New guidance to all staff on how to deal with vulnerable children;

—    Development of training for staff on child protection issues; and

—    Closer working with local authority social services departments.

  The Children's Taskforce is taking forward issues such as bespoke training for IND staff on child protection issues, Criminal Record Bureau checks for INS staff, developing processes for working with other agencies on child protection issues, developing guidance on identifying vulnerable children, and reviewing whether it is possible to improve the information received from posts abroad.

  The National Register of Unaccompanied Children has been developed as a secure live database, which allows local authorities to communicate directly with each other and with IND about children where immigration is an issue. In this way the proper authorities can be helped to recognise and protect children who are moved from area to area. This project helps to meet the commitment in the Every Child Matters Green Paper to removing "legal, technical, cultural and organisational barriers" to information sharing.

March 2006

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