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Home Office fails on ‘basic’ immigration tasks, says watchdog

Home Office fails on ‘basic’ immigration tasks, says watchdog
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, expresses his ‘frustration’ at lack of progress on improving Britain’s border controls
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said in his final annual report before he steps down that he was concerned by evidence of the Home Office’s shortcomings. Photo: PA
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
1:28PM GMT 17 Dec 2014
The Home Office is still failing to “get the basics right” on immigration, the independent borders watchdog has warned.
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said in his final annual report before stepping down that he was concerned by evidence of the department’s shortcomings.
It was “frustrating and disappointing” to encounter the same problems “over and over again”, he added.
It came as Mr Vine published a separate report which criticised the Home Office’s programme to deal with immigrants who overstayed their visas, and follows another highly critical report which exposed how the department granted British citizenship to a convicted killer.
He said: “I still find too much evidence that the Home Office does not get the basics right.
“This includes the quality and consistency of decision making but also having caseworkers with the right skills, aligning resources to the right priorities and having high quality management information that provides a sound basis on which to make decisions on future strategy and resourcing.
“It can be both frustrating and disappointing, when I encounter the same issues over and over again.”
He also expressed concern about how Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had delayed publication of his reports – sometimes by months at a time.
“Whilst I understand the Home Secretary’s decision, I feared, at the time it was made, that a consequence might be that reports would not be published promptly, reducing the impact of their findings,” he said.
“Unfortunately my concerns have proven correct.
“I now understand that the Home Secretary will aim to publish my reports within eight weeks of receiving the final version and when Parliament is sitting.”
Mr Vine steps down at the end of the month from the role he has held since 2008.

Less than 1% of overstaying immigrants left Britain under flagship scheme, report says

Less than 1% of overstaying immigrants left Britain under flagship scheme, report says
Thursday 18 December 2014 – The Telegraph By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, publishes another devastating report on the Home Office’s immigration measures

Fewer than one per cent of immigrants who illegally overstayed in Britain have left the country after being chased up by a flagship Home Office scheme, a new report has revealed.
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders, said only 884 immigrants from a pool of 120,545 departed Britain voluntarily after being confronted by a private contractor – or 0.73 per cent of the total.
The firm, Capita, was hired by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, in October 2012 to crack down on the massive pool of overstayers, whose visas had expired and should have gone home rather than continuing to reside here.
Mr Vine said it amounted to “poor performance” which had over-estimated the migrants’ willingness to leave and Capita’s “ability to persuade them”.
The chief inspector’s report said: “Given the fact that less than one per cent of those contacted by Capita have left following that contact, it also needs to take urgent steps to improve the process itself with a view to securing more voluntary departures.”
The devastating report also the financial savings had been over-stated by initial government estimates of the Capita contract.
Ministers said the programme had led to savings of £18.1 million for 2013-14 when in fact the true figure was likely to be £4.2 million, the report said.
Separate figures in the report showed that official data on foreigners who voluntarily leave Britain may have been “considerably overstated”.
“Capita claimed 4,080 departures in 2013-14. Extrapolating from our file sample results, over 1,140 could have been claimed in error, rendering these figures very unreliable,” the 70-page study found.
It comes after Mrs May has faced a series of major criticisms about her grip on the Home Office.
Last week another report by Mr Vine disclosed how thousands of foreigners – including at least one killer – had been granted British citizenship without proper checks being carried out.
Mr Vine’s report disclosed that the original number of foreigners refused permission to extend their stay in Britain – known as the Migration Refusal Pool – was far higher than previously thought.
On top of the original 150,000, a further 223,600 case files were discovered which had not previously been counted in the total.
It is understood the files were discovered in basements and meeting rooms in a government building in Sheffield which had been occupied by the now-defunct UK Border Agency (UKBA).
A Home Office spokesman said the 223,600 files had now been reviewed and whittled down to 89,000, after duplicates and errors were removed.
It means the Migration Refusal Pool is actually about 240,000.
The chief inspector also highlighted a series of failures in the way Capita tried to locate overstayers.
“We found concern among Home Office staff that the Capita tracing results were not reliable,” the report said.
“Staff … told us that Capita had recorded positive tracing results for addresses that did not exist and for migrants who had long since departed from the UK.
“They also said that they would usually carry out their own tracing checks as they could not rely on those undertaken by Capita.”
In another case Capita lost an opportunity to locate and deport a Ghanaian man whose application to stay was refused in 2009.
Although staff found reliable information about the man’s current whereabouts it was not passed on to enforcement teams in the Home Office and “a potential opportunity to remove the individual was missed”.
In one case Capita contacted a woman of Afghan origin who actually became a British citizen 10 years ago.
They mistakenly told her she was an overstayer and should leave the country immediately.
When she complained, the company wrongly rejected her complaint on the grounds it had followed its own processes, the report said.
A Capita spokesman said: “The processes Capita followed – in terms of classifying data and reporting statistics – were set out and authorised by the Home Office.
“Both processes and outcomes were then subject to rigorous and on-going scrutiny, governance and quality assurance.
“Capita was required to work from data provided from a variety of sources, data which was known to be out of date and therefore inaccurate – something that the Home Office has been entirely open about.
“It was part of Capita’s role to update this data and this process enabled resources to be focused on live cases with sufficient completed data to affect outcomes.”
He added: “We reject the report’s claims that Capita has overstated voluntary departures.
“We recorded departures, as with other processes, using a methodology agreed with the Home Office and these records have been and remain subject to rigorous scrutiny, quality assurance and governance.”
James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said: “We inherited an immigration system in complete disarray, which turned a blind eye to hundreds of thousands of people with no right to be here, and made no attempt to remove them or even to properly identify the scale of the problem.
“Under the UKBA there was no systematic plan to deal with illegal migrants other than failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals.
“We scrapped the failing UKBA and brought its work back under the control of ministers partly in order to sort out that mess.”
He added: “New powers in the Immigration Act are restricting access to work, housing, benefits, healthcare, bank accounts and driving licences of illegal migrants, making it far tougher for those with no right to be in the country to stay here.
“We are committed to building an immigration system which is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and, as this report makes clear, applying a rigour to the immigration system it has been lacking for many years.”
Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said: “To fail to know the whereabouts and precise numbers of thousands of people who have no right to stay here, is a serious indictment of our immigration system and it makes a mockery of claims that our system works.
“Capita’s contribution has been minimal, but it costs the taxpayer millions.
“The total of the ‘disappeared ones’ is now the size of a small English city.”

Files on missing migrants were left to rot in boxes: More than 260,000 foreigners thought to have overstayed visas

Files on missing migrants were left to rot in boxes: More than 260,000 foreigners thought to have overstayed visas
James Slack, Home Affairs Editor for the Daily Mail 18 December 2014

• Revelation in report by John Vine, Chief Inspector of Borders
• Officials discovered files on 223,600 foreign nationals lying in boxes
• Around 50,000 of the newly-discovered migrants have been accounted for
• Ministers were already looking for around 175,000 foreign nationals
• It means Home Office does not know whereabouts of 300,000 ‘overstayers’
More than 220,000 files on immigrants who should have been removed from Britain were found rotting in boxes in back rooms in yet another Home Office scandal.
Overall, the number of migrants who are suspected of overstaying their visas has now hit a staggering 263,000.
Yet, according to the chief inspector of immigration John Vine, little or no progress is being made in clearing the backlog.
Home Secretary Theresa May arrived for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London this morning ahead of a damning report by the chief borders inspector John Vine
The shambles has strong echoes of the 2006 asylum scandal which led to John Reid labelling the Home Office’s immigration and nationality directorate ‘not fit for purpose’.
The former home secretary publicly lambasted his own department after 450,000 historic asylum cases were found piled up in boxes.
Officials spent years trawling through the cases in a so-called legacy exercise which led to at least 160,000 asylum seekers being granted an effective amnesty to remain. In a further 74,500 cases, the applicants could not be traced.
Upon unearthing the debacle, the now Lord Reid damned the Home Office’s immigration operation as ‘not fit for purpose’ with ‘inadequate leadership and management systems’.
Since then, the immigration system has undergone a series of shake-ups and re-branding exercises but remains in chaos.
A private firm paid £12.7million by the Home Office to improve removals has managed to repatriate less than one per cent of immigrants contacted.
Tactics used by Capita included sending text messages which, in many cases, were simply ignored.
The latest Vine report – which Theresa May’s Home Office has been sitting on for months – examined the department’s so-called migration refusal pool, or MRP. This contains migrants who, since 2008, have overstayed their visas.
Despite ministers promising to clear the backlog, the MRP still contained 173,562 in the three months to June this year, compared to 174,057 in the same period two years earlier. As fast as a case is cleared up, a new one is added.
However, in a new debacle, Mr Vine said that he had also been made aware of a further 223,600 records, pre-dating December 2008, which ministers had not previously disclosed.
Government sources said the files – which date from the New Labour years, when the immigration system was in chaos – had been found piled up in meeting rooms and cupboards at centres in Sheffield and elsewhere.
Incredibly, some documents were found dumped at the bottom of a disused lift shaft, insiders said.

Border control may have sparked turmoil at SARS

by Staff Writer, December 17 2014, Business Day
A WRANGLE between state institutions over the control of SA’s borders could be at the heart of some of the turmoil at SARS.
Lack of adequate border controls encourages many economic crimes, including trade in illicit cigarettes, as well as drugs, rhino horn and ivory smuggling.
The turf battle within the state goes as far back as 1997, when the National Inter-Departmental Structure (NIDS) for Border Control was created.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) was at the time the lead agency at most ports of entry. But under the new structure, customs fell under SARS and immigration under the Department of Home Affairs, relegating the SAPS to playing a secondary role.
According to Ivan Pillay’s submission to the investigation panel headed by Muzi Sikhakhane, NIDS was a “site of acrimonious exchanges” between departments. It was eventually dissolved and replaced with the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee.
The lead agency for this committee was moved away from SARS and shifted to home affairs, a move approved by the Cabinet last week.
Recent exposés in the media have illustrated the high stakes involved around border control.
The Mail & Guardian reported in March on the illicit tobacco industry and how major multinational companies used their considerable resources to influence South African state security agencies to protect their commercial interests.
Another Mail & Guardian report says a factor in Mr Pillay’s suspension was his refusal to allow a consignment of African National Congress election campaign T-shirts imported from China to be released by customs without duties being paid.

South Africa beefs up border staff

South Africa beefs up border staff
Posted on Dec 16 2014 –
By Rex Mphisa – The Zimbabwe Mail
The South African government has beefed up its staff at the Beitbridge Border Post to cope with the increased volume of travellers expected to use the port where up to 30 000 people are said to have passed through daily since the beginning of the month.
The SA government has also halted illegal immigrants deportations for the festive season after realising some people handed themselves over to officials for deportation to get free transport to border posts.
According to a statement on the SA Home Affairs ministry website, 47 auxiliary staff were deployed at the border to complement 106 officers. Some of those deployed were from the anti-corruption unit.
It is understood that 17 735 people had left SA for Zimbabwe from December 1 to date and during the same time 8 672 SA nationals arrived into the country through Beitbridge.
Beitbridge is the border post which links Zimbabwe and South Africa directly and is known to be the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa.
There are a considerable number of cases of smuggling between the two countries with South Africa worried about the amount of cigarettes being smuggled from Zimbabwe into that country.
“With high numbers of people expected to cross borders during the festive season, the counter-corruption unit will be deployed at ports of entry to South Africa for monitoring and evaluation,” said the website.
The Home Affairs Department together with Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee (BCOCC), which comprises the Saps (South Africa Police Services) and Sars (South Africa Revenue Services), will conduct continuous joint operations within the ports and also within the 10-km radius.
Illegal immigrants who often hand themselves over with the view to be sent home only to return in the New Year could also be detained until the New Year. This after the department took a decision to halt deportations during the festive season, said the statement.
Zimbabwe also beefs up staff during this time of the year at the border posts where of late delays have been reported due to Ebola disease screening between the two countries.

Home Affairs should have had contingency plan – commuters

Dec 16 2014 12:08AM
Home Affairs should have had contingency plan – commuters
Irvine Makuyana and Lerato Diale – New Age Newspaper

Commuters are waiting as long as 12 hours before crossing the Beitbridge border post.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba yesterday visited the entry point in Limpopo in a last ditch bid to inspect the premises and put an end to the nightmare.

He was greeted by long queues of cars and people trying to make their way through immigration.

Yesterday Austin Njuga, who was on a road trip home to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, said: “It is terrible. I do not know what is causing the delay that has seen some people spend a night in queues.”

He said Home Affairs should have anticipated the heavy traffic at this time of the year and put in place contingency plans.

The Limpopo port of entry is the main gateway to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

A massive number of foreign nationals live and work in South Africa.

Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, yesterday tweeted pictures of the queue of backed-up vehicles.

Gigaba has taken an active role in dealing with the traffic congestion and could be seen talking to officials after making the trip to Limpopo.

“Malusi Gigaba preparing Beitbridge Home Affairs for the festive season,” Tshwete tweeted.

Traffic police said the number of public transport carriers and passenger vehicles plying the N1 route, from Gauteng to Venda, were on the rise.

Transport operators are making a killing from commuters travelling to their countries.

A conductor at the Braamfontein bus rank said yesterday the fare per head from Johannesburg to Harare had substantially “gone up from R400 to R700. We increase the prices in December every year”.

A Malawian cross- border bus driver, Lloyd Kalilombe, said the fare from SA to Malawi had also increased – from R1000 to R1500 per person.

“Christmas is the busiest time. This is the only time we can make real money,” he said.

“But the problem at the border is that people buy a lot of furniture (household appliances) and groceries to take home. Some have to be unloaded off the bus and reloaded again for customs clearance, which takes a lot of our time.”

Bus after bus departed from Park Station in Johannesburg and at the three international bus terminals in Braamfontein yesterday.

There was also a hive of activity at the fourth international terminus in Newtown.

Central banks, oil rout to rule markets in 2015

Central banks, oil rout to rule markets in 2015
Dec 15 2014 Fin24
Paris – Addicted to liquidity and disconnected from the real economy, global markets are likely to dance in 2015 to the different monetary policy tunes played by the US Federal Rerserve, the European Central Bank and China, while plunging oil prices could spice up the mix.
In 2015, “like the last seven years, it is the central bank interventions which will have an influence over the markets”, said Romain Boscher, a stock portfolio manager at Amundi.
For the past several years central banks have tried to stimulate stalled economies by a mix of injecting massive amounts of liquidity into markets, lowering interest rates to ultra low levels and snapping up assets.
Well irrigated with this liquidity, stock markets have done well and government borrowing rates have fallen, but in the real economy the situation isn’t quite as rosy and the situations vary.
Thus in 2015 monetary policy will no longer be uniform, said Mathieu L’Hoir, an equity strategist at AXA Investment Managers.
“The divergence between the central banks… will have the consequence of introducing considerably more volatility in the markets,” he added.
The United States and Britain, two countries whose central banks launched early and aggressive asset purchase programmes, are enjoying a recovery and interest rates are expected to begin rising in 2015.
But Japan has just launched more asset purchases as its economy has stumbled back into recession, while China is lowering rates and injecting liquidity to ensure no hard landing as its growth slows.
And pressure is on the ECB to undertake a similar programme to avoid the risks of deflation and recession.
“The ECB has its hands and feet tied and it has to meet expectations,” said L’Hoir. “Action is needed quickly given the evolution in inflation.”
But a rout in oil prices is complicating the situation.

Falling prices can trigger vicious circle

Crude prices have almost halved since June to levels not seen since 2009, when the world was still locked in a financial crisis.
“Oil prices, it is like a massive global budgetary boost, especially for countries which subsidise energy,” said L’Hoir, pointing to India and Southeast Asia.
But for Europe, which is battling the spectre of deflation, cheaper crude is making it more difficult for the ECB to achieve its mission of keep consumer prices stable.
Falling prices may sound good for the consumer but are not welcome from a central bank’s point of view as they can trigger a vicious circle where businesses and households delay purchases, throttling demand and causing companies to lay off workers.
Nevertheless, if it manages to avoid skidding into deflation on cheap oil prices, Europe can expect cheaper crude to eventually help give consumers more spending power.
“The rout in oil prices could be a massive game changer for the world economy,” said Berenberg analyst Holger Schmieding.
“For users of energy, it is equivalent to a huge tax cut. In fact, it’s even better than that: the cut will not show up in bigger fiscal deficits and hence future liabilities of the energy users. Instead, Russia and other energy producers will have to foot the bill.”
The danger is what costs that could levy from energy producers.
Russia, already wounded by the impact of Western sanctions over Ukraine, has seen its rouble tank.
“The risk that a badly wounded bear, Russia, may turn more aggressive in its increasing desperation is the key risk to global peace and to the European economic outlook which we have to watch next year,” said Schmieding.
Fed rate rises?

Beyond the geopolitical risk of a flare-up of the crisis in Ukraine, or uncertainty surrounding elections in Britain and Spain, the actions of the US Fed could also be stick into the equity market’s spokes.
The Fed raising interest rates may increase the attractiveness of bonds relative to stocks, and the effect it has on raising the value of the dollar can also hurt equities as it weighs on corporate performance.
But Christopher Low, an economist at FTN Financial, said “as long as the Fed doesn’t get carried away and raise its rates too high, stocks should perform just fine”.
A stronger dollar will also reverberate across the globe, particularly in emerging markets, which are particularly dependent on the value of the dollar given its importance in trade.
“When there is a change in monetary policy in the United States, there is a change in monetary policy across the globe,” said L’Hoir.
Besides central banks, 2015 may also be the year the Chinese stock markets finally arrive.
The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect launched in November 2014 aims to give investors worldwide direct access to Chinese shares.
“China is in the process of giving birth to the world’s second-largest stock market,” said Boscher.
He said “this will take years to achieve but it can only be favourable to international investors”.