The UK Border Agency should improve its decision-making and make full use of its powers to improve the quality of service it provides, said John Vine CBE QPM, Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, publishing his third annual report.
The report covers the period October 2010 to October 2011. During this time, the Chief Inspector published 19 inspection reports and made a total of 125 recommendations for improvement to the Agency.
In carrying out his inspections, the Chief Inspector identified some examples of good performance:
- Tier 2 (skilled worker) visa applications were processed within time, with backlogs cleared and performance improved whilst maintaining the quality of decision-making; and
- more foreign national prisoners were being deported more quickly under Early Removal or Facilitated Returns Schemes.
However, on the evidence of his work this reporting year, the Chief Inspector has identified four areas for improvement and would like to see the Agency:
- getting more decisions right first time;
- adopting a consistent approach;
- making full use of powers to enforce the law; and
- using intelligence to prevent and detect immigration and customs offences.
During his inspections of entry clearance, the Chief Inspector found that error rates were still far too high in the Agency’s visa decision-making, with too much emphasis placed on achieving numerical targets and not enough on the quality of decision-making.
In his inspection of entry clearance in Abu Dhabi and Islamabad, the Chief Inspector’s most significant findings showed that Agency staff were taking a different approach towards applicants from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai, compared to those from Pakistan. Pakistani applicants were refused entry clearance for failing to provide information which was not made clear to them at the time of application. This inspection report resulted in a revised Ministerial Authorisation regulating any nationality-based discrimination.
The Chief Inspector also found that the Agency was not making full use of its available powers to effectively enforce the law. During his inspection of the Agency’s Civil Penalties Compliance Team, the Chief Inspector found that there was a considerable gap between the total amount of fines issued to employers for employing illegal workers and the total amount of fines collected by the Agency.
Intelligence provides the UK Border Agency with an important means of preventing and detecting immigration and customs offences. As part of his intelligence inspection, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that, while the Agency encouraged the public to provide information on immigration offences, it routinely failed to capture whether allegations received had been acted on, or how many had resulted in the prevention and detection of immigration crime.
John Vine said:
“It gives me great pleasure to present my third annual report as the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency. This year has been extremely busy for the inspectorate – we have delivered a full programme of work against an ambitious inspection plan and increased the breadth and depth of our examination of the UK Border Agency.
As a result of my inspections this year, I would like to see the Agency getting more right first time, adopting a consistent approach, making full use of its powers to enforce the law and using intelligence to prevent and detect immigration and customs offences. I also want to see change taking place more quickly.”
Download the full report as a pdf here: