Only days after MPs showed serious concern over the spiralling backlog of immigration work, Home Secretary Theresa May announced plans to disband the UK Border Agency.
Set up in 2008, the UKBA (of which the UK Border Force is a subsidiary) has been troubled recently by the student Visa scandal, over 120,000 incomplete archived cases and a relaxed checking workforce in serious need of reform.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said: “The agency was not set up to absorb the levels of mass immigration we saw, this meant that the agency has never had the space to get on top of its workload.”
The Office of National Statistics estimated that approximately 55% of the rise in total population since 2001 is of a direct influence from migration.
The UKBA was given an agency status to keep it at ‘arm’s length’ from ministers, something which has now been acknowledged to have been a mistake. It created a ‘closed, secretive and defensive culture’, which Theresa May noted ‘was wrong’.
With the split of the UKBA two new organisations will be formed, the first will be an immigration and visa service that aims for a ‘high volume and high quality service’ that focuses on “customer satisfaction” of businessmen and legal visitors.
The second will be an ‘immigration law enforcement service’ that ‘has law enforcement at its heart that gets tough on those that break our [the UK’s] immigration laws.’
23,500 jobs in over 130 countries have now been put at risk as new proposals aim to gradually disband and rebuild the services.
Theresa May said: “It will take many years to clear the backlog and fix the system.”
Immigration figures have shown a steady increase over the past 10 years, with currently 1 in 7 people living in England and Wales having been born abroad. The 2011 Census has shown the most common immigrants (in order) come from India, Poland, Pakistan, Ireland and Germany.
As the UK becomes a more diverse nation, the Home Office will need to plan the implementation of the new border agencies carefully to accommodate the continuing increase in immigration, particularly as more countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, are given the green light to join the EU.