Letter to Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman
Home Affairs Committee, from Mr Liam Byrne MP, Minister of State
The purpose of this letter is to provide a short
six month update against the milestones I set out in the Border
and Immigration Agency Plan published in May 2007.
The milestones follow the five reform documents
I have published alongside the UK Borders Act since the former
Home Secretary asked me to lead reform of the immigration service
in June 2006;
Fair, Effective, Transparent, Trusted:
Rebuilding Confidence in our immigration system (July 2006)
Borders, Immigration and Identity
Action Plan (December 2006)
Enforcing the Rules (March 2007)
Securing the UK Border (March 2007)
Managing Global Migration (June 2007)
1 am pleased to report solid progress towards
making BIA fit for the future.
In that Business Plan I set out 25 demanding
milestones for achievement this year against our strategic objectives.
We are hitting 22 of them.
3 require and are receiving extra
attention to bring them back on target
BIA's first obligation is to keep our borders
safe. There are five building blocks to these defences:
and photos collected from visa applicants in over 110 countries.
E-Borderswe have signed the
e-Borders contract. Our test system currently receives and processes
30 million passenger movements each year covering 134 non-UK arrival
and departure points, exceeding its 30 million target for April
Visa Waiver Programmewe are
on track to introduce a Visa Waiver Test to target non-EEA countries
by spring 2008.
Single Border Forcewe will
create a unified border force to strengthen border security. We
will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency,
customs detection work at the border from Her Majesty's Revenue
and Customs and UKvisas. It will have responsibility for tackling
smuggling as well as immigration control. It will report jointly
to the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on its
work at the bordermanaging the flow of goods and people.
To ensure we protect our borders and detect possible terrorist
suspects, members of the new Unified border force will have the
power from January next year, to detain people not just on suspicion
of immigration offences or for customs crime but also for other
criminal activity including terrorism. There will be one single
primary checkpoint for both passport control and customs; and
a unified border force will now apply controls at points of entry
and exit on people and goods, into and out of the UK, as well
as working throughout the world.
ID CardsThe UK Borders Act
2007 gives us the foundation we need to Introduce these cards
from 2008 onwards. We will be introducing the cards on a risk
and efficiency basis and I will be publishing our strategy shortly.
Second, in asylum we are making considerable
progress too. This should be seen in he context of our wider focusour
record performance on the removal of foreign national prisoners,
removals of immigration offenders and the removals of failed asylum
Thanks to stronger border control
between January and September 2007 there were e 16,520 principal
asylum applications lodged, the lowest number of Q1-Q3 applications
In 2006 we hit removed more failed
asylum seekers than there were unfounded claims. This year (to
the end of 03) we have removed 9,900 failed asylum seekers including
New Asylum Teams are in place in
ail regions of the country and together with the Detained Fast
Track teams have handled all new claims since 5 March this year.
We exceeded the first stage of the new conclusion targetconcluding
38% of applications made during September 2006 within six months
against the target of 25%and we are on track to raise this
to 40% by the end of December 2007. This is a phased target rising
to 90% of cases concluded in six months by December 2011.
We have now established the 700 people
in new teams to resolve older cases. All individuals will have
an allocated ease owner by December 2007. Lin Homer will provide
a progress report in early December.
We are working to accelerate the rate of returnsfor
example we have recently agreed detailed rules with China to increase
returns and the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has recently agreed
that people whose claims have failed and do not face persecution
or ill-treatment can be returned to Zimbabwe.
Overall we are on track to hit our first target
for asylum but facing challenges on the other two in this year.
We are also making radical changes in enforcement.
Most importantly, we have significantly
increased our enforcement capacity, including seconding additional
police officers to ensure that we prioritise action against those
who cause the country most harm. That means foreign criminals
who have been to jail are first in the queue to be deported.
For the calendar year 2007 and up
to the first week of November, approximately 3,500 Foreign National
Prisoners have so far been removed or deported. This already represents
a 48% improvement on the total number of foreign prisoners removed
for the entire calendar year of 2006, and over 130% more than
for the calendar years 2004 and 2005. We remain confident we will
achieve 4,000 for the full year.
We are committed to stopping abuse
of our immigration system and we intend to take a robust approach
to removing immigration offenders from the UK. in the last reported
quarter enforced returns matched our best ever records,
Alongside failed asylum seekers we
are removing Illegal workers. Last quarter we removed 15,660 persons
from the UK. Just over 3,000 were asylum applicants or dependents
and around 12,500 were non-asylum cases including those refused
entry at our ports or were removed as a result of enforcement
action or voluntary departure. In 2006 we removed one person every
8 minutes. In 2006 asylum applications hit their lowest level
since 1993, whilst the number of removals and deportations hit
an all-time high.
We are expanding our detention estate
by 25% We will achieve this by opening a new secure removal centre
at Gatwick Airport. We announced in July that we would rebuild
half of Harmondsworth to Prison Service Category B/C standards.
It is due to open in late 2009/early 2010.
Next February new measures to prevent
illegal migrant working in the UK will come into force. This means
that those who employ illegal migrants through less than diligent
recruitment practices will face civil penalties of up to a proposed
maximum of £10,000 per illegal worker. Those convicted of
knowingly and deliberately employing illegal migrants will face
the prospect of an unlimited fine and/or a maximum two year prison
sentence. Employers of migrant workers with time-limited leave
to enter or remain in the United Kingdom will also be responsible
for checking their ongoing entitlement to work, no less frequently
than every 12 months.
Overall we are on track to deliver the majority
of our milestones on enforcement but are behind plan on one of
Fourth, in Migration Control, we have put in
place the biggest change in migration policy for over 30 years
and we are now implementing that policy. The Committee will know
I wanted to see a new openness and a new balance in migration
policy, and so I have made significant changes,
Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)
and Migration Impacts Forum (MIF)MIF now up and running
and helped us draw up policy on Bulgaria and Romania. MAC will
be up and running by end of the year.
Points Based Systemwell on
track for introduction in 1st quarter of 2003. Sponsorship Statement
of Intent was published on 22 November.
I believe reform is now needed to
both the visit system and family reunion policies, and I will
put forward new proposals in this area,
of work to strengthen end-to-end case management for migration
cases is underway. This includes a case owner tasked to manage
enforcement and compliance activity on applicants who overstay
the temporary residence time period they have been granted. we
also plan to have an action plan to ensure that more cases are
brought to conclusion.
Charging-in April we implemented
a new approach to charging, setting fees on the basis of the value
to the applicant whilst maintaining international competitiveness.
Certain fees are set above cost recovery levels to contribute
up to additional £100 million per year to help support the
step change in enforcement activity without recourse to the public
We will shortly be setting fees for
the new Points Based System and will continue the strategic approach
that those who benefit most from the immigration system contribute
Overall we are on track to hit the five milestones.
Finally, the organisation of BIA is being transformed:
The preparations for launching the BIA as an
Executive Agency from April 2008 are progressing well, but with
more work to be done on preparing the new financial accounts Further
work will need to be reassessed in light of the UK Border Agency
announcement on 14 November,
The recruitment of the Chief Inspector is under
way and the Inspectorate is due to be in place by April 2008.
This will strengthen the critical challenge we receive and ensure
greater and more transparent accountabilities.
Regional Directors and the regional structure
are in place and are already strengthening our operational accountability,
in relation to budgets, targets and priorities, building relationships
with regional stakeholders and better management of publicity
to improve communications with customers and stakeholders
Three further priorities are:
The Prime Minister announced on 14 November the
creation of the UK Border Agency to improve the UK's security
through strong border controls while welcoming, facilitating and
encouraging legitimate travellers and trade. The new Agency will
have a stronger cross-government approach to securing the border
by strengthening cross government relationships, including much
closer working with police Communities, Department for International
Development, Department for Work and Pensions and Department of
Health. for example.
We are removing the most harmful people first
to protect the public. We are working closely with the police
and other agencies to identify, disrupt, arrest and bring to justice
those involved in criminal activity. We are part of Pentameter
2, an important multi-agency operation that aims to break people
trafficking rings and protect and rescue vulnerable people who
are being abused.
We are entering into a strategic partnership
with the Association of Chief Police officers (ALPO), and are
committed to working in partnership with other parts of government,
voluntary and third sector and society as a whole to deal with
harm-based immigration crime and its effects.
In summary what we are seeking to do is significant.
set and enforce the right policy
strengthen our ability to bring immigration
offenders to justice
tackle the root causes of illegal
immigration at home and abroad
act in a more open and transparent
way, using our regional structure to deliver in partnership with
agencies at home and abroad to pursue our ends.
27 November 2007