The Work of the UK Border Agency (April--June 2012) - Home Affairs Committee Contents

3  Asylum and immigration backlog

Key Figures


43. Cases in the asylum and immigration backlog sit in the Case Assurance and Audit unit. The backlog is divided into two types of cases:

  • the controlled archive-which contains applications where the Agency has lost touch with the applicant. There is an immigration controlled archive and an asylum controlled archive
  • the 'live cohorts'-cases where the Agency has re-established contact with previously untraceable applicants and is working towards concluding their applications. Again there is a live cohort for both asylum and immigration cases.

It is confusing to the public when the Agency uses terms such as 'controlled archive' to describe what is nothing more than a backlog. The Agency should use plain English when it reports on its performance.

Size of the Case Assurance and Audit unit[34]

44. The Agency continues to make progress in tackling both controlled archives but this remains slow.

Asylum and immigration cases in live cohorts and controlled archives at the end of each month, April 2011-June 2012


45. Since the first quarter of the year the asylum controlled archive has decreased by 6,000 cases and the immigration controlled archive has decreased by 500 cases. Accordingly, the asylum live cohort has risen. Progress is also being made in concluding asylum applications however as a further 1,400 cases have been concluded since March this year. The asylum live cohort therefore now stands at 25,500 cases. A new group, the immigration "live cohort", has been set up with 3,500 immigration applications and awaiting conclusion. The Agency tells us that these cases have been reactivated from the migration controlled archive.[35] However, As the immigration controlled archive, which feeds into the live cohort, has gone down by only 500 cases we assume that new backlog cases must have come to the Agency's attention and have been added to either the migration controlled archive or the migration live cohort. [36] We are concerned that new backlog cases may still be coming to light so long after the Agency is supposed to have tackled the backlog. We expect an explanation from the Agency as to where these cases have come from.

Closure of the controlled archive

46. The Agency has pledged to close the controlled archives by December this year, their projected rate of closure is shown in the table below.

Projections of the closure of the controlled archive[37]
Date 27 Aug3 Sept 1 Oct 29 Oct26 Nov 24 Dec 31 Dec
Size of CA92,000 91,00090.000 63,00028,000 6,0000

47. According to the Agency's projections it will have to assess 27,000 cases in October, 35,000 in November and 22,000 in December. This seems like a heavy caseload for the 149 employees who are assigned to the Case Assurance and Audit unit especially as a number of them are likely to be working on cases in the live cohorts.[38] When he gave evidence to us Mr Whiteman said he was confident that the deadline could be met because a lot of work to try and trace applicants had already been done.[39] We accept that the work previously done on these cases will speed up the Agency's final assessment but we are not convinced that final checks can be done to an acceptable standard on so many cases within the time frame the Agency has set itself.

48. Mr Whiteman told us that there were 29,000 fewer cases in the Controlled Archive than when he took over at the Agency a year ago.[40] Even with the preliminary work done we do not see how the Agency can adequately check the remaining 90,000 cases within three months when only 29,000 cases have been removed in a year. The Agency estimate that about 80,000 cases will be closed at the end of this period and 16,000 cases will be reactivated making a total of 96,000 cases assessed. The Agency gave the size of both controlled archives as 92,000 at the end of August so we are perplexed where the additional 4,000 cases will come from. The Agency must tell us where the extra 4,000 cases they are planning to assess in the closure of the controlled archives have come from and why they are not in the figures given to us for the size of the controlled archives.

49. We are concerned that the closure of the controlled archives may result in a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case. The Agency has repeatedly argued that applicants were unlikely to still be in the country as they had not left a trace on any of the databases the Agency was checking applicants against.[41] The Agency told us in previous correspondence that it was checking records against databases at the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and information held by the credit checking agency Equifax.[42] We accept that in a significant proportion of cases the applications are likely to be duplicates or the applicants are likely to have left the UK voluntarily. However we are not convinced that the Agency's limited checking regime will have picked up all of the applicants who remain in the country. For this reason we are concerned that the final checks made on these cases should be thorough and that they should not be rushed to meet an artificial deadline. We expect the Agency to provide us with a list of all the checks that will have been carried out on an application before it is closed.

50. We are concerned that preparations should be made for the event that a number of people whose applications are closed may subsequently be discovered to be in the country. We expect to hear from the Agency what the consequence of this would be both for the individual concerned and for the tax payer. We are particularly interested to find out whether any such individuals would be offered an amnesty or if they would have to start their asylum or immigration application again.

Resolution of asylum legacy cases

51. A breakdown of how the total number of asylum legacy cases had been concluded at the end the first and second quarter of this year can be seen in the graph below.

Total legacy asylum conclusions at the end of each quarter, Q1 2012-Q2 2012

52. Of the total number of applications concluded 56% have so far been given leave to remain in the UK and 24% have been removed. The Agency is not able to give us quarterly figures as to how many grants relate to temporary leave to remain and how many relate to permanent leave. It is however able to give us figures for the period April 2011 to August 2012, which tell us that 36% of grants were permanent and 64% were temporary.[43]

Resolution of the immigration legacy cases

53. The majority of immigration legacy applications, 59%, have also been granted by the Agency whilst 29% have been refused. Approximately half for the grants made are for permanent residence in the UK.[44]

Total legacy migration conclusions at the end of Q2 2012

34   Figures for the size of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit are rounded to the nearest 500 by the Agency. Back

35   Ev 16, footnote 10 [Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency] Back

36   Ev 16, para 20 [Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency] Back

37   Ev 18, para 32 Back

38   149 FTE employees Back

39   Q8 Back

40   Q1 Back

41   Q2 and Home Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2012-13, The Work of the UK Border Agency December 2011-March 2012, HC 71, Q193 [Rob Whiteman] Back

42   Home Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2012-13, The Work of the UK Border Agency December 2011-March 2012, HC 71, Ev 44 [Rob Whiteman, letter to Home Affairs Select Committee, 3 May 2012] Back

43   Ev 17, para 27 [Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency] Back

44   The Agency has told us that 53% of the migration applications granted by the CAAU were given permanent leave to remain in the UK and 47% were given temporary leave to remain over the period April 2011 to August 2012. We assume that grants were only made from June 2012 onwards as the Agency also told us that the Migration Live cohort was not in existence until then. Back

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Prepared 9 November 2012