The UK Border Agency and Border Force should adopt a consistent approach and make sure proper processes are followed, said John Vine CBE QPM, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.
These are the findings in the Chief Inspector’s fourth annual report, which covers the period November 2011 to October 2012. During this time, the Chief Inspector published 11 inspection reports, including a Home Secretary commissioned investigation into border checks. A total of 84 recommendations for improvement were made to the Agency and Border Force.
In carrying out his inspections, the Chief Inspector identified some examples of good performance:
- effective management of asylum casework and identification, and removal of immigration offenders from the UK by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Local Immigration team’s (LIT);
- improvements in the consistency and quality of decision making by entry clearance staff posted overseas -particularly, in New York and Madrid visa sections.
However, the Chief Inspector also identified areas for improvement and would like to see the Agency and Border Force:
- adopt a consistent approach at the border;
- make sure proper processes and guidance are followed;
- improve line management; and
- put in place mechanisms to ensure they meet their obligations of treating individuals fairly and appropriately within the law.
The investigation into border checks revealed an inconsistent approach being taken by immigration officers at passport control, and the frequency of suspensions of Warning Index checks, were higher than either the Agency or Ministers anticipated when the policy was introduced. Subsequently, the Home Secretary decided to split Border Force from the UK Border Agency and made it a separate Director General command within the Home Office. The Chief Inspector was pleased to note that, in response to his recommendation that ‘a new framework of border security checks be established and adequately resourced…’, Border Force issued an Operating Mandate in July 2012.
At Heathrow and Gatwick the Chief Inspector found decisions to refuse entry to the UK were generally soundly based. However, he was concerned that Border Agency staff were conducting searches in a disproportionate way and that some were being conducted without proper authorisation.
It is a fundamental principle of good administration that an organisation should be able to show why it does something and how it does it. This is why the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that the Detained Fast Track process for asylum applications was not working as quickly as intended. He was also disappointed to find, during his inspection of Hampshire and Isle of Wight LIT, that there was no effective process to locate and remove absconders from the UK, nor was there any clear strategy in place to deal with 150,000 plus cases sitting within a ‘migration refusal pool’.
The Chief Inspector found progress made to improve both the consistency and quality of decision making in visa sections overseas. The re-inspection of Abu Dhabi and Islamabad, as well as inspections of New York and Madrid, identified considerable improvements, proper use of Immigration rules, and targets being met on customer service.
John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:
“It gives me great pleasure to present my fourth annual report as the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. This was an extremely busy and a unique year for the Inspectorate as we completed a thorough, special investigation, commissioned by the Home Secretary, into checks at the UK border.
Whilst I found some examples of good performance in the last year, I would like to see the Agency and Border Force adopt a consistent approach at the border, make sure proper processes are followed, improve line management and ensure they meet their obligations of treating individuals fairly and appropriately within the law.”
Download the full report as a PDF here: