The Home Affairs Committee published its report The Work of the UK Border Agency yesterday. In a nutshell the report:
expresses in the context of ‘austerity’ concerns about the £208,000 salary (exclusive of bonuses) paid to the outgoing head of the UK Border Agency. The evidence also draws out that there has been a significant increase in the extent to which UKBA costs are met by immigrants – a third of the costs are now met by immigrants, primarily through increased immigration fees. This contrasts to one tenth in the past;
- notes that the UKBA would not meet its target for completing 90% of asylum cases within six months- the rate was 50% in September 09 and peaked to 59% in January 2010
- reiterates that quality of decision making should not be sacrificed for speed given that poor decision making in relation to asylum and immigration cases was accountable for much of the delay;
- expresses disappointment with the lack of publication of the audit being undertaken in relation to rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules- i.e. the rule for dealing with those with special illnesses, torture and other medical conditions;
- calls for the tightening up of the registration and inspection of colleges in order to close fraudulent institutions;
- raises concerns that the legacy cases programme would end in July 2011 with the Agency having lost track of some cases;
- notes that the UK Border Agency is unlikely to trace 70 of the 1013 Foreign National Prisoners whose release without deportation led to Mr Charles Clarke’s resignation as Home Secretary in 2005;
- raises concerns about the adequacy of the training and supervision of those involved in the enforced removal of unsuccessful asylum claimants.
Adequacy of training and supervision of those involved in removal
With the recent death of Jimmy Mubenga which is currently the subject of a criminal investigation, the report notes that G4S has now lost its contract for these. Cause for celebration? Well no, not least because contracts have now been awarded to Reliance who as the report notes has been ‘severely criticised’ by the Independent Police Complaints Commission’ on account of the way in which it has dealt with those in custody.
The Committee indicates that it may well return to the subject and observes that it:
‘is not all convinced that the UK Border Agency s being effective in making sure that its contractors provide adequate training and supervision of their employees in respect of the use of force.’
Addressing the dignity deficit in the removal process
The ill-treatment of immigrants by escort staff, and detention centres has previously been documented in Outsourcing Abuse, but also in the albeit less exacting report undertaken by Baroness O’Loan – whatever its shortcomings this still accepted that the casual use of force and lack of respect for detainee dignity was system wise.
Whilst the previous Government may have been following, and putting in force some of those recommendations, it policy response in relation to these concerns was wholly inadequate. Indeed as we previously pointed out the Draft Immigration Bill would if anything have generated a loosening of the framework through the proposed removal of escort monitors’ and contract monitors’ duties to investigate and report to the SSHD allegations made against detainee custody officers arising whilst carrying out escort and custodial functions. Whilst the thinking was that an Independent Monitoring Board was to be established there was simply no duty on it to investigate relevant complaints- the effect would have been to generate a situation where nobody in fact had a duty to investigate relevant complaints.
Given the energy expended on the Immigration Simplification Project by the UK Border Agency it seems unlikely that the Coalition Government is going to dispense with this project altogether, a further more through going report on the use of force in the removal process by the Home Affairs Committee is therefore long overdue.