More than 160,000 asylum seekers have been allowed to stay in the UK by the Border Agency (UKBA), prompting MPs to claim that it "amounts to an amnesty".
In an effort to clear a backlog of 450,000 cases of applicants, the agency has been closing many cases since "the applicants cannot be found and it is unknown whether they are in the UK, have left the country or are dead".
Those who can be found are being treated more leniently in the asylum process than in the past, since officials have been advised to grant leave to stay to applicants who have already been resident in the country for six to eight years. Previously the applicant had to be in the country for ten to 12 years.
Out of the 450,000 cases, the agency has processed 403,500. Of those, 38,000 (9%) were removed from the UK. More than 161,000 (40%) were allowed to remain, and 74,500 cases (18%) were closed due to missing applicants. Another 129,000 were classified as "errors".
These findings were published today (2 June) in a report from the Home Affairs Committee. They claimed that for one in six cases, the UKBA had "no idea" what had happened to the asylum seeker.
The report states that the UKBA "does not systematically follow up intelligence of possible illegal migrants". It also claims that people who overstay their visas are not being dealt with effectively.
The report's conclusion is that "a very large number of people remain in the UK who either have no right to be here, or who would have been removed had their cases been dealt with in a timely manner".
The UKBA has been described as "not fit for purpose", and with the government planning 5,000 job cuts, there will not be "sufficient resources to track and return illegal immigrants".
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