Failings 'mean amnesty for asylum-seekers'

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More than 160,000 asylum seekers were effectively given an amnesty to stay in Britain following a change in the rules applied by immigration officials, according to an MPs' report published today. It delivers a damning assessment of the UK Border Agency as "not fit for purpose" and unable to check out immigration claims fully.

The agency has been set a target of clearing the historic backlog of 450,000 unresolved asylum cases by this summer. But the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said it had largely been achieved by allowing long-standing applicants to remain in the country. Guidance was revised to suggest to consider granting leave to remain in the UK to asylum-seekers who had been in Britain for between six and eight years, as opposed to the 10 to 12 years that applied at the start of the backlog-clearing process.

As a result, 161,000 asylum-seekers were granted leave to remain in Britain – "such a large proportion that it amounts in effect to an amnesty," the committee said.