Mark Reckless is MP for Rochester and Strood and a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, whcih this morning published its report into the Work of the UK Border Agency.
This morning the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is now elected, said what it failed to say for years when Labour whips appointed a Labour majority to the committee. The backlog of nearly half a million asylum claims, which built up over Labour’s years of at best incompetent administration and at worst wilful neglect, has been cleared by in effect issuing an amnesty.
It is understandable that Damian Green, the current immigration minister who like me is a Kent MP, does not want to use that word, or advertise that position, but the Home Affairs Committee, in a unanimous report, has no doubt that an amnesty is in effect what we have seen. What else can we call the instructions issued by Labour ministers to nod through asylum seekers just because they had failed to deal with them for six years or more?
Of 403,500 backlog cases ‘concluded’ up to 2 March 2011, only 38,000 asylum seekers were removed, while 161,000 were granted asylum and right to remain and an extraordinary 205,500 cases were classified as ‘other’ (NB to mathematically-minded readers – officials told our committee that the 1,000 difference between the total and sum of the categories is a rounding error).
The most significant ‘other’ category is the around 75,000 asylum seekers who have just disappeared as far as the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is concerned. It is not right that UKBA describes such cases as ‘concluded’ just because the asylum seeker is put on a watch list and does not come to officialdom’s attention for six months. Our committee’s questioning did at least elicit the assurance from UKBA that such ‘concluded’ cases will remain on a watch list and action will be taken should that person later seek, for instance, to claim benefits.
Nonetheless, the use by UKBA of language which implies that a case has been dealt with when it has not will infuriate my constituents. At least Damian Green will be as keen as I am to report back to our Kent constituents on what this government will continue to do to track down and deal with asylum seekers lost in the system under Labour.
Crucially, this government has also said that it will reduce net immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands. The Prime Minister and Damian as immigration minister have assured me that the coalition government can do this, despite limitations placed on it by our membership of the EU and application of the Human Rights Act.
If they find that is not the case, then the answer will have to be a Conservative government that removes those restrictions, so that we keep the promise we made to our constituents on immigration.