UK Border Agency To Be Split In Two After Criticism Over Asylum Backlog

Sweeping Reforms To The UK Border Agency..

Staff in the UK Border Agency have been told their jobs will stay exactly the same - despite the Home Secretary trumpeting sweeping reforms to the under-fire service.

Moments after Theresa May announced the UKBA would be split into two and brought back under her control, an embarrassing staff memo emerged.

It said the workforce would "still be doing the same job in the same place with the same colleagues for the same boss" despite the reforms.

Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill wrote to staff ahead of the Easter break to inform them of the changes.

In the note, he tells his staff: "Most of us will still be doing the same job in the same place with the same colleagues for the same boss and with the same mission to keep Britain's streets safe and our borders secure."

He adds: "I know that all change is unsettling and this is a significant programme of reform.

"I am confident that the new structures and systems will strengthen the Home Office's leadership platform, but it is just

a platform. Delivery is down to us."

It comes after May told MPs the agency responsible for an immigration backlog the size of Iceland is to be split up.

It has previously been criticised for wrongly suspending security checks and having up to 100,000 unopened letters.

May told the Commons the "troubled" department would come back into her control.

She told MPs the UKBA in its current form "struggles with the volume of its casework".

"The Agency has been a troubled organisation since it was formed in 2008 and its performance is not good enough.

"In truth the Agency was not set up to absorb the level of mass immigration that we saw under the last Government.

"This meant the Agency has never had the space to modernise its structures and systems and get on top of its workload."

The announcement comes after the Home Affairs Select Committee slated the agency over the spiralling backlog of asylum and immigration cases.

It accused former head Lin Homer of "catastrophic failure" and questioned why she was promoted to a £180,000 HMRC job.

And it said there was a "significant number of failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants living in the UK and avoiding contact with public authorities."

It was the latest in a line of criticism over the way the UK's borders are managed.

In 2011, independent chief inspector John Vine found that around 500,000 Eurostar passengers boarded trains in France and arrived in the UK without being checked against the warnings index of suspected terrorists.

He also found border security checks had been suspended regularly and applied inconsistently since at least 2007.

And in November, Vine revealed that thousands of immigrants were allowed to stay in the UK without undergoing proper checks because of a mountainous backlog of cases.

He said UKBA staff dealt with immigration cases so inefficiently that at one point 100,000 pieces of post were unopened.

On Tuesday May said the new entities will not have "agency" status and therefore will sit in the Home Office, reporting to ministers.

She said: "UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm's length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture."

A new board will be formed to oversee immigration policy, the Passport Service, Border Force and the two new entities.

"The number of illegal immigrants removed does not keep up with the number of people who are here illegally," she said.

Last year the Home Secretary hived off the UK Border Force, which is responsible for frontline controls at air, sea and rail ports, from the wider UKBA.

The move came after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of people had been let into the UK without being checked against a Home Office watch list.

She told the House that further splitting the UKBA in two will create "a high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions about who comes here" and an organisation that has "law enforcement at its heart".

After the announcement, Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz MP said: "The Home Secretary has done the right thing in putting the UK Backlog Agency out of its misery.

"As yesterday's Home Affairs Committee report shows, the organisation is not fit for purpose.

"However, this cannot be an excuse not to clear the backlogs, which stand at a third of a million cases.

"Ministers are now on the front line.

"Proper accountability and scrutiny of our immigration system must continue, and it will need effective and strong leadership if the Home Office is serious about having a fully functional immigration system."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the House that problems with immigration have got "worse not better" on May's watch.

She said: "The Home Secretary is right to say there are problems at UKBA and it has had a series of problems over many years.

"And we would have some sympathy with your proposals but the trouble with the proposals is you are simply refusing to recognise problems around enforcement and effectiveness at UKBA have got worse and not better on your watch."

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