Independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency launches first annual report

The Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), John Vine CBE QPM, has today published his first annual report since being appointed to the role by the Home Secretary.

This report documents progress made since the creation of the new independent inspectorate, which is already working constructively with the Agency to promote good practice and identify areas for improvement.

John Vine has undertaken three important pilot inspections to test his approach and methodology. These focus on the issue of freight searching at the juxtaposed controls in Calais and Coquelles, the port of Harwich and non-suspensive appeals. The report also includes the recommendations from his inspections overseas and the unannounced inspection of the Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit.

In respect of the juxtaposed controls inspection, the Independent Chief Inspector reports on the professionalism of front line staff, who often work under difficult conditions.

He was disturbed to discover the conditions in which people were being held in transitional holding facilities in Calais. He recommends the UKBA reviews this arrangement urgently. He considered that conditions in which people were held unsuitable, with no evidence of heating, food or water being provided.

He was also disappointed to find that the civil penalty powers created by Parliament as a powerful tool to deter illegal entry were not being fully used. This has resulted in £1.5 million of penalties uncollected.

At the Port of Harwich, the Independent Chief Inspector found UKBA staff were well managed, and staff on-the-ground conducted their business in a professional and courteous manner. However, he questioned whether the UKBA was meeting passenger queuing targets, and identified areas of concern where local arrangements might impact on efficiency and effectiveness of border control.

On examination of non-suspensive appeals, the Independent Chief Inspector found that UKBA staff demonstrated a very clear commitment to handling cases professionally and with care. However, there was a need to publish statistics on the number of cases certified as clearly unfounded and also for the Agency to monitor the number of appeals and judicial reviews to ensure lessons can be learned. Also the use of case-by-case certification needed to be assessed to ensure it was used to its full potential.

The unannounced inspection of the Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit was the first such inspection undertaken by the Independent Chief Inspector, and these will continue as part of the his overall work programme.

John Vine said:

‘I have made good progress in scrutinising a range of UKBA operations, both in the UK and overseas. The UKBA has so far been extremely co-operative and has already adopted the vast majority of my recommendations. I am delighted that in a relatively short period of time we have developed a robust inspection model to work to, and I recognise that our structure and approach will continue to evolve as we inspect more areas of UKBA activity.

‘I have made it a priority to build relationships with individuals, bodies and organisations with a particular interest in the functions of the UKBA. I have met over 150 stakeholders to encourage input to our work and share the common purpose of improving UKBA services. .

‘This has been, I believe, a year of considerable achievement. The invaluable support of my colleagues within the inspectorate has helped me begin to deliver robust and independent inspection of the UKBA. The year ahead will see the publication of reports on asylum, enforcement, Wales and the South West region, complaints handling and entry clearance, to name but a few.

‘I will continually evaluate my approach to ensure the UKBA delivers fair, consistent and respectful services.’

Download the report in full as a PDF here:

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