Still here: Thousands of criminals illegally living in the UK

By Cassie Chambers

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has "made no further progress" in finding missing criminals living in the UK, a parliamentary report said today.

Calling the failures "concerning", the Commons' home affairs select committee called for "significant improvements" to a number of areas of immigration.

The bleak findings of the committee come at an inopportune time for the agency, as reports of a border worker strike on the eve of the Olympics have led to widespread public criticism.

In particular, the committee expressed concern about the 3,900 foreign national prisoners who remain in the UK after their sentence has ended.

According to the report, none of the 57 prisoners whose location was unknown in 2011 have been found, and only two former prisoners have been deported since November.

Labour's shadow minister for immigration, Chris Bryant, joined in the criticism, saying: "Fewer foreign prisoners being deported than under the last government, mounting casework backlogs and writing off tens of thousands of lost asylum cases.

"Now we know there are other huge lists of people UKBA simply isn't dealing with."

The finding that thousands of criminals are failing to be deported comes as part of the committee's comprehensive review of the border agency's performance.

MPs called for the creation of an agency team to determine why so many prisoners are remaining in UK.

The committee also expressed concern over the total backlog of immigration cases – thought to number over 250,000 – which it said will "take years to clear".

"This is the first time that the committee has collated all the cases at the UK Border Agency that await resolution. This backlog is now equivalent to the entire population of Newcastle upon Tyne," Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said.

"The agency seems to have acquired its own Bermuda triangle. It's easy to get in, but near impossible to keep track of anyone, let alone get them out."

The Home Office acknowledged "the report has raised some legitimate concerns about issues," but argued that it was already taking measures to address many of the problems highlighted by the committee.

"This report highlights the improvements we have made to tackle the huge backlog of cases we inherited," a spokesperson said.

"Over 2,000 overstayers have recently been removed following targeted enforcement activity, foreign national offenders are being removed more quickly and we are performing well against visa processing targets."

MPs also highlighted other areas of concern, including the further backlog that is expected to result from recent changes to immigration law and the failure of the agency to reduce the number of immigration appeals.

As a result of the agency's "low performance", the committee called for the return of bonuses paid to agency staff, saying that such bonuses were not justified.

"Senior officials at the UKBA continue to receive bonuses. The committee reiterates its recommendations made last year that bonuses should not be paid to senior staff until this organisation carries out the intentions of parliament," the chair explained.

"Those who have received bonuses since that time must return them."

Labour suggested the poor performance of the border agency is the result of Tory-policies to cut the agency's capacity.

"The government decided not to prioritise UKBA and cut 5,000 staff from the organisation," the shadow minister said.

"The UKBA is clearly in need of real change, but the government has run down the agency and failed to properly get a grip of our country's immigration controls and the security of our borders."