The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012) - Home Affairs Committee Contents


3  Asylum and immigration backlog

Key figures
  • 21,000 cases were in the live asylum cohort as of 31 March 2012
  • 80,000 asylum cases remain in the controlled archive as of 31 March 2012
  • 21,500 immigration cases remain in the controlled archive as of 31 March 2012
  • 14% decrease in the size of the asylum controlled archive since Q4 2011
  • 59% of the original asylum legacy cases resolved to date have been given leave to remain
  • 4,900 asylum cases have been resolved since Q4 2011

Background

29. The Agency is dealing with a large legacy of immigration and asylum cases where the applicants cannot be traced. These cases sit in what the Agency refers to as the "Controlled Archive". In addition there is a legacy of "live" asylum cases, in which the whereabouts of the individual is known but the case has yet to be resolved. The Agency is working to bring these cases to a conclusion. Both the Controlled Archive and the "live" asylum cases are now handled by the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) which was set up by the Agency in April 2011.[19]

Size of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit

30. The Agency's progress in resolving cases in the Controlled Archive and the live asylum cohort can be seen in figure 3 below.


Figure 3: number of cases in the CAAU[20]

  • The Asylum Controlled Archive, which peaked at 98,000 cases in September 2011, has now fallen to 80,000 cases. This is a 14% decrease from the previous quarter.
  • Accordingly, the "live" asylum cohort, where cases have been identified and are being concluded, has grown since the last quarter from 17,000 cases to 21,000 cases. This is to be expected as more individuals in the asylum controlled archive are identified.
  • The immigration Controlled Archive has remained more level, decreasing by only 4,500 cases since April 2011 and by only 500 cases since the previous quarter.

Resolution of asylum legacy cases

31. Of the original 23,000 asylum cases transferred to the Case Assurance and Audit Unit, 7,600 have now been concluded as follows:


Figure 4 : breakdown, by outcome of asylum cases resolved since December 2011[21]

32. We are concerned that the majority of cases, 59%, have been given leave to remain, with only 9% of individuals being deported. The Agency appears to be choosing the path of least resistance to resolve its backlog.

PROGRESS SINCE NOVEMBER 2011

33. Some 4,900 further asylum legacy cases have been resolved since our last update from the Agency in December 2011. We are pleased to see that the resolutions of these latest cases are more evenly spread, with 51% given leave to remain and 43% removed.


Figure 5 : breakdown, by outcome of asylum cases resolved since December 2011[22]

Staff and resources

34. In the last financial year approximately 112 full-time equivalent staff were employed by the Case Assurance and Audit Unit, with 13 of these currently employed to work on tracing individuals in the Controlled Archive. The operational budget of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit was approximately £3.2m.[23] We are concerned that the Agency does not have enough resources to work through the backlog in the timeframe to which it is committed. In his written evidence, Rob Whiteman set out his aim to "significantly" reduce the number of cases in the Controlled Archive by March 2013.[24] But, in his oral evidence, he updated this estimate to eliminating the 80,000 asylum cases by 31 December 2012. He said the Agency had new staff in Liverpool to ensure this deadline was met. We note that the resource needed to reduce this backlog from 80,000 to zero in nine months would be considerably more than the 13 staff the Agency employed to work on both the immigration and asylum backlogs last year.

Methods being used to trace archived cases

35. The Agency is using a number of methods to trace the individuals in the immigration and asylum controlled archives:

  • A check of all cases against major external databases such as HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and Equifax, a credit reference agency.
  • A manual audit by staff to see if there are additional pieces of information that would help to trace the applicant.
  • Work by staff as part of the manual audit to identify duplicates.

36. We are pleased to see that the asylum backlog is beginning to fall. There has been a reduction of 13,000 asylum cases and 500 immigration cases in the Controlled Archive since December 2011. There are now 80,000 asylum cases and 21,500 immigration cases remaining as of the end of March this year. We expect the Agency's manual audit to prove useful in identifying new ways to trace individuals and expect an update in our next inquiry. We recommend that in addition to this manual audit, the Agency expands its checks to include a wider range of databases, such as those held by local authorities, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and utility company records. If there are any statutory obstacles to this data-sharing, the Agency should identify them in its response to this Report.


19   Ev 43 Back

20   Ev 44. Note: numbers are rounded to the nearest 500. Back

21   Two additional cases have been resolved where the applicants were found to be deceased. Back

22   Two additional cases have been resolved where the applicants were found to be deceased. Back

23   Ev 43 Back

24   Ev 44 Back


 
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Prepared 23 July 2012