Shambles: The Home Office numbers which don’t add up
The Home Office has no record of many of the immigration decisions it makes and is unable to answer rudimentary questions about the number of visas it has handed out, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed.
The release of the information provides a damning portrait of disorganisation and chaos behind the scenes of the department responsible for making decisions on immigration cases.
The FoI response, which has been seen by Politics.co.uk, shows the department has no record of whether it refused or accepted hundreds of visas and is unable to recover the information.
The Home Office was asked how many visa applications it had received for spouses of non-EEA nationals between July and September 2012 and whether the applications were approved or refused.
In a strange response which would not have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch, the Home Office replied: "Of the 410 applications decided, 85 were granted and 25 were refused."
On a separate category of spousal visa, the department replied: "Of the 4,630 applications decided, 3,780 were granted and ten were refused."
The department added: "I hope that this information meets your requirements. I would like to assure you that we have provided you with all relevant information that the Home Office holds."
When the person requesting the information pointed out that the numbers did not add up, the Home Office admitted it had no record of which decision had been reached in the cases.
The department wrote back five months later – well over the 20-day time limit imposed on Freedom of Information requests by law – and said it "cannot now further clarify the answers we provided as that original data will have been superseded as further decisions have been taken since that time".
The Home Office also said that answering the request about the number of accepted and rejected applications would exceed the £600 limit imposed on answering FoI requests.
The responses shine a light on the disorganisation prevalent in the immigration system.
A recent home affairs committee report found the backlog of immigration cases now stands at well over half a million, after a further 190,000 unresolved cases were discovered during witness testimony.
In her evidence to the committee, Sarah Rapson, director general UK Visas and Immigration, admitted the immigration system would never be fixed, much to the consternation of the MPs questioning her.
The Home Office has pledged to introduce exit checks for those leaving the country by the end of the parliament, although some doubt they will be able to embed a functional system in time.
The FoI request was made by BritCits, a human rights charity focused on the impact of UK's immigration rules on British citizens and residents with non-EEA family members.