The Committee published its report "The Work
of the UK Border Agency" on 11 January 2011 and included
a number of comments for consideration by the UK Border Agency.
The Government response is provided below.
Foreign National Prisoners
The difficulty in tracing and then deporting released
prisoners highlights the need to ensure that all eligible foreign
nationals currently serving sentences are removed from the UK
expeditiously and, wherever possible, are not held for long periods
in prison at the taxpayers' expense when they could be deported.
The UK Border Agency has continued to improve the
way it deals with the deportation of foreign national prisoners.
Since 1 August 2008, provisions within the UK Borders Act 2007
have meant that any non-European Economic Area (EEA) national
who receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or more, or a sentence
of any length for drug or gun crimes, will automatically be considered
for deportation. EEA nationals who receive a custodial sentence
of 12 months or more for drug, violent or sex crimes, or 24 months
for other crimes, are also considered for deportation.
The UK Border Agency has removed or deported more
than 21,000 foreign national prisoners from the UK since 2006,
including a total of 5,235
in 2010. We continue to ensure that individuals are deported at
the earliest opportunity. Where sentence length allows, consideration
of deportation is commenced up to 18 months prior to the earliest
point of release. Around a third of the foreign national prisoners
removed in 2010 were removed before the end of their sentence
under the terms of Early Removal Scheme.
Despite the best efforts of the UK Border Agency,
deportation of foreign national prisoners is often delayed by
the use of judicial challenges and by their failure to comply
with the documentation process. This can lengthen the period of
time an individual spends in immigration detention. A sampling
exercise completed in early 2010 of cases which had been detained
under immigration powers for six months or longer, showed that
non-compliance was an issue in around two thirds of those cases.
We are working with the judiciary and other foreign governments
to tackle these issues.
The Facilitated Return Scheme (FRS) continues to
deliver significant numbers of removals, and accounted for around
half of all foreign prisoner removals from the UK between January
and September 2010. FRS offers individuals a financial package
to help them build a new life back in their home country. It is
a practical solution which saves the taxpayer money in the long
run, and means foreign criminals can be removed at as early a
point as possible, denying them the opportunity to re-offend or
prolong the process with judicial challenges.
The Government is committed to exploring ways of
removing foreign criminals even earlier. This will include working
with the prisons, courts and the police to build upon our capacity
to gather intelligence information on nationality at an earlier
Legacy asylum cases
In cases where severe delays in decision-making
have been the fault of the government and not the applicant, and
where the passage of time has made evidence harder to find or
has led to the applicant's being better integrated into British
society, there is an argument in favour of granting the applicant
leave to remain. (Paragraph 6)
The UK Border Agency applies existing policy and
legislation in dealing with older asylum cases. There are no separate
policy criteria for these older cases. All decisions will be made
on a case-by-case basis using those existing laws and policies.
Those who qualify will be granted leave to remain; those who do
not the UK Border Agency will seek to remove.
Given the length of time that some of these individuals
have been in the UK, we have always been clear that a significant
proportion of the legacy cases would be likely to be eligible
to remain in the UK. When we first reported to the Committee,
37% of conclusions were grants, although this reduced at one stage
of the programme, this has now increased to 40% as at 31 January
2011. We have always been clear that the proportion of different
conclusion types would vary throughout the life of the programme,
and this rate is considered appropriate given the nature of these
A minimum of 61,000 of the 400-450,000 casesabout
one in sevenwill eventually be concluded on the basis that
the UK Border Agency has been completely unable to trace what
has happened to the applicant. While we agree that the UK Border
Agency should not spend unlimited time trying to track down missing
applicants, we are concerned about the high proportion of cases
which will be left, in effect, in limbo. Again, this points to
the vital need to deal with cases as expeditiously as possible
and not to let backlogs grow. (Paragraphs 7-8)
Inevitably there will be legacy cases which are more
difficult to trace, for example, because people have left the
The Committee will be aware from Jonathan Sedgwick's
recent written update that the Agency has now concluded 40,500
cases, therefore currently one in ten conclusions represents an
individual that the agency has not been able to locate. We do
expect this proportion to increase in light of the 34,000 cases
commissioned to the archive that will mature into conclusions
in the coming months, but these will be balanced against other
The UK Border Agency makes every effort to trace
individuals, writing to them at their last known address and checking
a number of internal and external databases. It has also worked
with representative groups to ensure that individuals update us
with their current addresses. As the public expects, the Agency
undertakes the greatest number of checks on those who represent
the greatest potential risk to the public.
When it has not been possible to find an individual
the UK Border Agency continues to pursue the case as part of its
controlled archive which is checked against watchlists and also
against the Police National Computer on a regular basis. If this
returns any details, the UK Border Agency will follow up on those
cases. Alternatively, if an applicant or their representatives
make contact with us we will take their case out of the controlled
Once the Case Resolution programme comes to an end
later this year, the UK Border Agency's new Case Audit and Assurance
Unit will continue to monitor the controlled archive pool and
will take forward strategic targeting of potentially traceable
In addition, the Government also supports e-Borders
and is committed to reintroducing exit checks, so in time it will
be much clearer who has left the country.
We are mindful of the historic issues and processes
which led to the accumulation of a backlog of legacy asylum cases
before 2006. This is why, in parallel to making a concerted effort
to conclude these cases, we have put in place practical measures,
through the introduction of the New Asylum Model (NAM), to ensure
that new asylum claims are dealt with in an efficient and expeditious
way, right through to the granting of refugee status to those
who genuinely need the UK's protection, and the removal from the
UK of those who it is concluded do not. We do accept that there
is still more that can be done and have launched an Asylum Improvement
Project to explore new ways of improving the system.
New asylum cases
We agree that quality should not be sacrificed
to speed when it comes to decision-making. From the cases we see
as constituency members, much of the delay in concluding asylum
and other immigration cases stems from poor quality decision-making
when the application is initially considered. We recognise the
progress made over the last few years in relation to new procedures
and approaches, but we consider that the UK Border Agency still
has room for improvement. More consistent and rigorous scrutiny
of applications would lead to fewer delays, fewer appeals, less
uncertainty for the applicant, less pressure on the officials
themselves, and probably lower costs for the UK taxpayer. This
may well require greater investment in staff training. It is also
likely to require more consistent and considered direction from
those setting policy for the Agency than has sometimes been the
case. (Paragraph 10)
Through close working with the UNHCR, the UK Border
Agency has developed a world class audit process to assure the
quality of initial decisions and interviews. The Quality Audit
Team was established and staff members travel across all regions
to sample case owners' work. The Quality Audit Team has further
developed its portfolio to include consideration of the appeals
process. Quality Auditors produce individual reports, which feed
into monthly summaries, sharing best practice to all of our regions.
Areas in need of improvement are also identified, and solutions
are implemented via our senior caseworker network. The UK Border
Agency continues to build on this work with the UNHCR and is sharing
its approach to quality with EU and international partners.
In addition, we have developed a new set of performance
indicators designed to show the overall health of the asylum system.
We are moving away from an exclusive focus on the six month conclusion
rate as defined by the old Public Service Agreement target which
was the subject of criticism from our corporate partners, the
National Audit Office and Independent Chief Inspector. We still
believe that measuring our performance in terms of conclusions
is the right thing to do but by also looking at the 'vital signs'
we can ensure that the asylum system is kept in balance.
Our new approach to performance in the asylum system
is in line with the Government's stated aims of increasing transparency
and of speeding up the system. So, we will continue to focus on
concluding casesand not just deciding them. As we have
outlined, our performance will be measured by a basket of indicators
to ensure the asylum system is kept in balance.
The range of indicators includes-
- Decisions taken within 30 days
- Quality of decision
- Grant rate
- % decisions overturned at appeal
- Conclusions at 6, 12, 18 and 36 months
- Cases removed by 12 months
- Number and age profile of the outstanding caseload
- Asylum support costs
- Productivity (conclusion per case owner FTE)
- Unit cost.
Our system is more robust and more stable than it
has been, but we know there is still a lot to do. We have therefore
introduced the Asylum Improvement Project which is our vehicle
for making further improvements in how we deal with applications.
Enforced removals from the UK
We are not at all convinced that the UK Border
Agency is being effective in making sure that its contractors
provide adequate training and supervision of their employees in
respect of the use of force. This is a fundamental responsibility
of the Agency and is not simply a matter of clauses in contracts
or formal procedural requirements. We also note that the risk
assessment which has to accompany the person being removed (a
copy of which was provided to the Committee) is concerned principally
with the possible risks of the deportee absconding or offering
violence to the accompanying officials, rather than risks of harm
to the deportee him/herself. It is not clear whether the very
short section on the deportee's medical condition, which has to
be filled in by a qualified medical practitioner, would be completed
in such a way as to be understood by a layman, such as an escorting
officer: would it, for example, be obvious that the deportee's
underlying heart condition or other complaint might make some
types of physical restraint potentially lethal? We look forward
to the Government's responses to our concerns. (Paragraphs 11
All Detention Custody Officers (DCOs) complete a
comprehensive training course before they are allowed to work
with detainees, the contents of which are approved by the UK Border
Agency. This encompasses human rights, diversity, self-harm and
suicide prevention, child protection, first aid and the use of
restraint. The training has a heavy emphasis on using interpersonal
skills to persuade detainees to comply with what is required of
them, and only to use restraint as a matter of last resort. It
also emphasises the requirement to de-escalate any use of restraint
as soon as it is safe to do so when the objective has been achieved
or the detainee complies. DCOs receive regular refresher training
and in the case of restraint, every twelve months.
Restraint training within the UK Border Agency's
detention estate is delivered by professional trainers and uses
techniques accredited by the National Offender Management Service.
The work of DCOs are overseen and monitored on a
number of different levels by the UK Border Agency once they begin
to work with detainees:
DCOs are monitored by a team of contract monitors,
who use evidence to provide feedback on performance. Evidence
includes both personal observations, but also a variety of different
reports and CCTV. Although we do not routinely video every removal
attempt, given the use of video equipment can itself antagonise
detainees, the UK Border Agency does use hand-held devices for
high risk removals or those where we anticipate particularly disruptive
behaviour on the part of detainee.
DCOs are required to report any use of restraint
or use of handcuffs, even if used as a precautionary measure.
Such reports are reviewed by a senior manager and are then passed
to the relevant contract monitor for review. It is open to the
manager or contract monitor to commission an investigation if
they feel there are questions as to whether the use of restraint
was appropriate or justified.
All immigration removal centres and escorting vans
are fitted with CCTV, and recordings are sampled by senior managers
and contract monitors.
The UK Border Agency operates a comprehensive complaints
system as part of our monitoring arrangements: detainees are told
how to complain on arrival in a removal centre and upon escort,
and forms are widely available in a range of different languages.
Monitors review outcomes of complaint investigations and the UK
Border Agency has a separate team which considers trends, both
those substantiated and also those which are not substantiated.
Complaints are also the subject of investigations by the Prisons
and Probation Ombudsman, a copy of whose reports are sent to the
Director of Detention Services. Any allegation of excessive use
of force is passed automatically to the police for them to consider
whether to conduct their own parallel investigation.
Furthermore, Independent Monitoring Boards work in
all our Immigration Removal Centres and a number of short-term
holding facilities, including Heathrow Airport, and report regularly
to the contract monitors, and annually to the Home Secretary.
Their reports are published on their website. The Chief Inspector
of Prisons also provides a programme of announced and unannounced
inspections, reporting to the Home Secretary.
Several thousand immigration detainees pass through
the immigration detention estate each month or are removed from
the UK, and the UK Border Agency is increasing the number of monitors
by eight specifically to provide continued assurances in relation
to the escorting service.
We have noted the Committee's concerns about the
risk assessment process for detainees with medical conditions.
The Person Escort Record (PER), a copy of which was presented
during Lin Homer's oral evidence to the Committee in November
2010, and which is being piloted by the UK Border Agency, has
a dedicated section for healthcare clinicians to complete to highlight
medical and mental health issues, as well as suicide and self-harm
risk factors. The form also provides the contact number of the
person completing the assessment in case of questions or queries.
The form is counter-signed by a senior officer and it is open
to this individual or the escorts themselves if they do not understand
an entry or wish to clarify a matter further. We are not aware
of any particular concerns. Detainees who are being escorted and
who are not part of the pilot are also carefully risk assessed,
using information from a number of sources.
Detailed medical information is usually a matter
of clinical confidentiality between the detainee patient and healthcare
staff, but if deemed clinically appropriate, and with the patient's
consent, information can be shared with escorting staff to assist
the detainee's management during the removal process to ensure
their health and well-being at all times. To share information
without the detainee's consent would be a significant clinical
event, which may be rarely necessary in the clinician's judgement,
but every effort will always be made to obtain informed consent.
Where healthcare clinicians feel that a medical escort
is required, we provide one. A medical escort will have full access
to the individual's medical record, which accompanies them. A
medical escort was provided for 990 removals in 2010.
The UK Border Agency is working with the Department
of Health to consider how the existing measures can be strengthened
TREATMENT OF DETAINEES WITH SPECIAL
We requested a copy of the audit (report into
Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules). We are disappointed that,
as of the last sitting date in 2010, this has not been forthcoming.
Further analysis of some of the data in the original
evaluation has now been completed and a report was published on
1 March 2011a copy of which was provided to the Committee.
When Members write to Ministers it is expected
that the reply will at least be signed by the Minister. It is
therefore unacceptable that the head of an agency should delegate
this task to junior officials.
The UK Border Agency, in recent years, has received
the highest volume of letters from Members and Peers: of the 66,320
intake for 2009 (latest figures available) approximately 30% were
where Members wrote to Ministers. In line with Cabinet Office
guidelines, where an MP has written to a Minister about the day
to day operations of the Agency the Minister has authorised the
Chief Executive, or their deputy, to reply. We encourage MPs to
write direct to UK Border Agency officials in such instances.
We have been working with MPs to help them understand
the best way to communicate with the Agency. We have put in place
a range of channels that can be used as an alternative to letters
that will provide quicker and more tailored responses. This included
introducing named Account Managers for all MPs, a dedicated telephone
enquiry line, an on-line correspondence tracker and improved handling
of email enquiries. As a result of this we have received a significant
reduction in letters from MPs over the past year.
We consider that in the current situation of wage
constraints and reductions in posts in the public sector, it would
be appropriate to offer a significantly lower level of salary
than the £208,000 currently paidthe appointee should
be paid no more than the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office.
In addition, we think that no bonuses should be paid to senior
staff in the current financial climate. (Paragraph 16)
The Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency post
will be filled following a fair and open competition. All civil
service salaries are competitive and designed to ensure the tax
payer gets value for money, whilst also attracting the most talented
individuals to challenging and high profile roles.
The Home Office follows Government policy in awarding
non-consolidated performance bonuses to its Senior Civil Servants
(SCS). The Prime Minister has stated that bonus awards for the
SCS will be restricted to the top 25% only.
To take account of current financial pressures, the
Permanent Secretary of the Home Office decided that less than
half of the available provision should be spent for the 2009/10
SCS Performance and Reward Review. Arrangements for performance-related
payments for 2010/11 have not yet been finalised.
We therefore request the Government to implement
our predecessor committee's recommendations in full, and specifically
those regarding the need for unannounced inspection visits to
educational establishments, a statutory restriction on the use
of the term `college' limiting it to accredited institutions,
and an account of how the relevant authorities ensure that they
investigate the intelligence provided by legitimate colleges and
others about potential bogus institutions. (Paragraph 17)
Since April 2010 at least 50% of post licence visits
undertaken by UK Border Agency visiting officers have been unannounced.
Additionally, visits commissioned by the Agency's sponsor investigations
team are all unannounced. Where appropriate information about
institutions about which the UK Border Agency has concerns is
shared with other government departments such as the Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Since the introduction of Tier 4 of the Points Based
System on 31 March 2009, a total of 60 education providers have
had their sponsor licences revoked and the UK Border Agency is
revoking more each year. In the period between 1 April 2010 and
20 January 2011 a total of 32 education providers had their sponsor
licences revoked. This is an increase of 19% on the 27 revocations
of sponsor licences between 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2010.
As proposed in our consultation about the reform
of the student immigration system, we are working closely with
all departments responsible for education across the UK to review
the work of the currently approved accreditation bodies, to establish
what more can be done to ensure the quality of education provision
within the private sector. Early findings from the consultation
indicate widespread support for the review of the current system
in order to improve quality standards across the private, further
and higher education sector. We are analysing the responses received
to the consultation and will publish our findings and final policy
proposals, including on the future of the accreditation system,
in due course.
Restricting the use of the term 'college' and closing
down bogus colleges as a result of intelligence gathered are matters
for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
We consider that it would help both those engaged
in the formation of immigration policy and the general public
seeking to understand it, if the Governmentand indeed otherswere
to adopt a clear set of criteria for the measurement of inflows
to and outflows from the UK (whether, for example, they include
UK citizens, whether they relate to those settling in the UK and,
if so, for how long, and so on) and to use only figures that meet
these criteria when discussing migration, asylum and related policies.
We also note that unless and until the UK has records of all those
entering the country and leaving the country, many of the uncertainties
highlighted in this Report will continue into the future. (Paragraphs
Home Office Statistics are looking at ways of presenting
the data in a more comprehensive way; by clearly setting out the
criteria used in the measurement of each statistic and the relationships
and differences between the various statistics. This will allow
users, whether the general public or those engaged in policy formation,
to continue to have access to the data that they require for various
purposes and to gain a better understanding of the data. This
work is being undertaken in conjunction with a forum of representatives
from a range of external statistical users and the Office for
National Statistics which is responsible for official estimates
of UK migration.
Data are provided to suit a wide range of needs,
including making internationally and historically consistent comparisons.
This requires publishing data to internationally recognised definitions,
such as the UN definition of `net migration', and asylum, but
also data which allows the public to be informed about the performance
of the UK Border Agency. In some cases these do not use the same
definitions. In addition data supplied to the EU by the UK Border
Agency is required to meet definitions that may differ from those
used nationally. Wherever possible we try to align these different
definitions and make clear to statistics users where these differences
occur and the meaning of each particular set of data.
As part of the development of plans within the e-borders
project to re-introduce exit checks, Home Office Statistics and
Office for National Statistics are considering the data that might
in due course be provided on outflows; these will be notified
in the Control of Immigration publication.
1 Quarter 1-1340, Quarter 2-1260, Quarter 3-1410. Source:
Control of Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary. United
Kingdom (after data cleansing). Quarter 4-1225-subject to data