124,000 asylum seekers 'missing'

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The number of asylum-seekers "lost" by immigration officials is equal to the population of Cambridge, a report by MPs has said.

UK Border Agency figures suggested that the number of cases in which officials had "lost track of the applicant" had tripled in six months from 40,500 in March to 124,000 in September. Lost cases had been "dumped" on a list known as the "controlled archive", MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee said.

The archive shows that 98,000 asylum-seekers cannot be found and the agency has no idea whether or not the applicant even remains in the UK, legally or otherwise. The "controlled archive" is "a bureaucratic term which hides the true nature of a Government department's activity and is designed to deflect attention away from it", the MPs report says.

It would be better called "an archive of lost applicants", they added. The list also includes 26,000 migrants following a review of cases, most of which are more than eight years old and involve those who have overstayed their visas or refused an extension of leave.