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The extent of how shambolic UKBA really is was revealed last week.

Last Tuesday, home secretary Theresa May told the Commons the beleaguered agency will be disbanded, split into two separate organsations. One will handle visas and immigration, the other will be a separate law enforcement arm.

It was a shock announcement – coming just a day after the Home Affairs Committee published a damning report about the Border Agency, warning it would take the controversial office 24 years to clear the backlog of asylum and immigration cases.

Four new backlogs had come to light in the past three months, including 59,000 in-country visa applications, taking the total number to 313,000 – equivalent to a population the size of Iceland.

The report also criticised UKBA for its failure to meet its own targets for in-country immigration processing, and for its shoddy customer service. 

The committee concluded it was “inexcusable that so many people are not having their cases processed on time”.

It added: “People are paying a high cost to obtain their visas, and more for the premium services. The agency needs to consider these people more as customers, and fulfill its responsibilities in the timescale it has promised.”

The report comes a month after TNT launched its UKBA Balls-Up campaign, demanding improvements to visa processing services.


David Cameron with Border Agency staff

Over the past four weeks, we’ve highlighted horror stories of misinformation and horrendous waiting times. This is something the report echoed.

It revealed UKBA is failing its targets to process 90 per cent of Tier 1, 2 and 5 and 85 per cent of in-country postal applicants within four weeks.

Only 18 per cent of Tier 1 and 14 per cent of Tier 4 applications were processed on time between July and September 2012. And just 79 per cent of Tier 2 and 71 per cent of Tier 5 applications were processed on time during the same period.

In total, 28,558 visa applications were not processed within target, more than double that of the previous quarter. And the report found for Tier 2 applications, more postal applications were processed on target than expensive premium service appointments – which cost £306 extra.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said in the report: “It appears more like a Whitehall farce than a government agency operating in the 21st century.”

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The following day, in an unexpected statement, Theresa May announced the demise of UKBA to the Commons, saying the agency had been troubled for “so many years” and its performance was “still not good enough”.

She added: “The agency struggles with the volume of its casework, which has led to historical backlogs running into the hundreds of thousands. In truth, the agency was not set up to absorb the level of mass immigration that we saw under the last government.”

The changes are due to begin on Monday of this week. However, May has come under fire for what some have called a knee-jerk reaction to the highly critical committee report. Although government officials have reassured that these plans have been going on privately for months.

May also hit out at the “secretive and defensive culture” at the UKBA, which led to a catalogue of inefficiencies.

But, rather than a shake-up internally, TNT has learned it will be the same staff “doing the same job in the same place with the same colleagues for the same boss”, after an internal memo by new Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill was leaked.

The dismantling of the agency will also not receive any additional funding, but will have to restructure out of its existing budget. 

One of the main differences to the home secretary’s proposals and the current set-up is that the entity loses its government agency status, and two directors will be appointed who will report to ministers at the Home Office.

Interestingly, all senior staff will be keeping their high-salaried jobs – including the £175k-salaried chief executive Rob Whiteman, even though his role no longer exists.


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UKBA canned: Beleaguered immigration agency to be split in two, but what will it mean for you?
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