british amnesty to 160,000 asylum seekers

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    From: NewsCore
    June 02, 20113:58PM
    Several countries have urged Australia, as part of a UN 'periodic review', to abolish its mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Picture: Sarah Rhodes Source: The Courier-Mail

    TENS of thousands of asylum seekers have been granted an amnesty to stay in Britain by the UK Border Agency, according to a parliamentary report.

    The rules have been changed to make it easier for officials to permit migrants who have been in the country for years to remain, the report says.

    A total of 161,000 asylum seekers and their dependents have been allowed to stay as part of an operation to clear a backlog of up to 450,000 cases at the agency, which has been described as "still not fit for purpose."

    Fewer than one in ten of those in the backlog have been removed from the country. Officials have been unable to trace a further one in six -- or about 74,500 cases, which are now to be listed in an archive as concluded. It is not known whether they are still in Britain, have departed or are deceased, the committee said.

    The debacle is outlined in a highly critical report by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which concludes that public confidence in the immigration system is being severely undermined, according to The (London) Times.

    A robust immigration system requires those running it to have an operation in place that will mean applicants are not lost or untraceable, the report said. It added, "Ministers would have been unwilling to announce an amnesty for the applicants caught up in this backlog, not least because this might be interpreted as meaning that the UK was prepared more generally to relax its approach towards migration.

    "But we consider that in practice an amnesty has taken place, at considerable cost to the taxpayer."

    Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee, said, "Though progress has been made it is clear that the UK Border Agency is still not fit for purpose. While there is no doubt that individual caseworkers are dedicated and hard-working, there are serious concerns over the agency's ability to deal with cases and respond to intelligence swiftly and thoroughly."

    Immigration Minister Damian Green denied that the agency had operated an amnesty, adding that asylum seekers who had been in the country for a long time had to be given the right to stay.

    "We have known for some time that the asylum system we inherited was chaotic. Some of these cases date back more than a decade and the UK Border Agency was always clear that because of the length of time many of these individuals have been in the country there would be no alternative to granting them leave to remain. There is no amnesty," he said.

    He added, "This government is overhauling the uncontrolled immigration system it inherited. We are already radically reforming the points-based system and other routes of entry that have been subject to widespread abuse and will reintroduce exit checks by 2015.

    "We are making greater use of intelligence to remove people with no right to be here and are concluding individual cases faster."
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