UK Border Agency Spends Christmas Sending Texts Telling Legal Immigrants To Leave The Country

from the i'd-say-'this-will-all-end-badly,'-but-the-beginning's-bad-enoug dept

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has a bit of a problem on its hands after handing off some outdated information to a private company acting on its behalf. The agency is attempting to kick 174,000 illegal immigrants out of the UK, a job it apparently feels is best handled by a third party, utilizing text messages and email. Unfortunately, due to inaccurate information, legal migrants are being politely asked to pack up and go.
Capita, which won a £40m UKBA contract to trace 174,000 migrants living illegally in the country from September, has been sending text messages and emails to them telling they are required to leave Britain. But immigration lawyers say those who have received Capita's texts in recent weeks include a woman with a valid British passport and a man with a valid visa who had invested £1m in a UK-based business.
As if suddenly being asked to leave a country you're legally residing in wasn't upsetting enough, the fact that these "hit the road" messages were sent over the holiday season only made things worse.
Alison Harvey, of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, said it had asked for the messages not to be sent over the holiday period: "We were concerned at reports of people who had valid leave to be in the UK receiving the texts and that, over the holiday period, it would be difficult for them to get in touch with their lawyer and they would be anxious and distressed with no possibility of reassurance. Our request was declined."
Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to look into the erroneous texts and is being pressured to halt the program altogether. To its credit, the UKBA has owned up to providing the questionable info:
UKBA admitted the problem was with the accuracy of its records: "We advise anyone contacted in error to contact us so records can be updated. Where our records show that people are here illegally, it is vital we are able to contact them as we are determined that they should return home. This is the first time a government has taken proactive steps to deal with this pool of cases, some of which date back to December 2008."
Capita has a contract worth potentially £40m, but is paid for results (migrants leaving the country), rather than guaranteed the entire amount, so it seems unlikely that it has anything to gain by contacting legal migrants. It's also unlikely that sending stern text messages will have much impact on the immigrants the UK government wants to see removed. Of course, Capita may not have the staffing to pursue illegal immigrants with anything more manpower-intensive than texts and emails. One week prior to receiving this contract, it was taken to task by a National Audit Office report which showed that it failed to provide enough qualified and competent courtroom interpreters (through its subsidiary, Applied Language Solutions [ALS]), leading to a large number of abandoned trials.
"The ministry overlooked its own due diligence process, which showed ALS was simply too small to shoulder a contract of this value. The ministry also took no account of the resolve of many experienced interpreters not to work for this company. Against a target of 98%, ALS supplied an interpreter in only 58% of hearings in February 2012.

"This unacceptably poor performance led to courtroom chaos," the report said. It forced court staff to interrupt their core duties to find interpreters at short notice and triggered a steep rise in the number of abandoned trials … ALS could not even guarantee that interpreters had undergone mandatory criminal records checks."
And then there's the question of whether spending £40m to remove illegal migrants is a wise idea. In an article published a few days later, The Guardian points out that the government's hardline approach to immigration is damaging the "multibillion-pound market" in foreign students.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the flurry of recent statements by senior ministers calling for a crackdown on "bogus students" had given the impression that overseas students were no longer welcome and was driving them towards competitor countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.
"We are concerned about the language and the atmosphere that is being created, not least because it plays very, very badly internationally," Dandridge said. "Whatever the intentions of the politicians are … every time these sorts of comments are made by the home secretary or others it does have a potentially very damaging impact internationally."
A study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (pdf) estimated that overseas students contribute nearly £8 billion a year to Britain's economy and projects it to near £17 billion by 2025. Not only does putting out the "unwelcome mat" for foreign students adversely affect the UK's economy, it also does damage to its standing in the global marketplace, as Dandrige explains:
"What universities are reporting to us [is that] they are seeing significant drops, particularly from India, from Pakistan and now from China and Saudi Arabia. These are countries that send large numbers and also they are important countries in terms of international engagement and industry engagement, so we want to be promoting and fostering relations with them, not erecting barriers."
Between Capita's own issues, the UKGA's failure to provide up-to-date information and the fact that chasing immigrants out might not be in the country's best interest, this situation has the potential to develop into a black eye for all involved. Even if the number of legal immigrants who spent the holiday season wondering if they were being deported is low compared to the total contacted, it's still a very inauspicious start for a questionable program.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Richard (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:45am

    If..

    If you are a legal immigrant this will cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.

    If you are an illegal one you will say to yourself "is this all they can afford to do?" and ignore it.

    It's a lose - lose.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:48am

    "Capita"

    Well, there's your first problem...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    QW, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:53am

    The UKBA doesn't understand Universities

    The problems with the UKBA's approach to VISAs for students go much further than this. They're trying to make Academic and Support staff into enforcement officers, and introducing rules about monitoring attendance at lectures, and reporting (to arrange deporting) for students who don't show up often enough.

    The problem is that the UKBA don't understand how Universities work at all. Students should not be forced to attend lectures. If they are self studying using University resources, and passing the courses, lectures should obviously be optional.

    And it's worse for PhD students who do not have regular schedules, but are being asked to be monitored as if they do.

     

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    •  
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      Richard (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:25am

      Re: The UKBA doesn't understand Universities

      Actually it's not really as bad as you portray at the moment.

      In general we only have to report on one session per month.

       

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        qw, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:32pm

        Re: Re: The UKBA doesn't understand Universities


        Actually it's not really as bad as you portray at the moment.

        In general we only have to report on one session per month.


        It's pretty bad for PhD students doing fieldwork a significant distance from their home institution.

        It's also worse in some places than others, because the degree of enforcement implemented to meet the vague and misguided demands of the UKBA differs in different institutions.

        Those institutions may be making poor decisions about enforcement, but it's hard to blame them directly. They're doing it all in in the absolute fear of losing their license for all overseas students (as recently happened to London Met, albeit for different reasons), which would be an absolute death knell for most current HE institutions.

         

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    John Doe, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:14am

    Sounds like they are getting a bargain

    And then there's the question of whether spending 40m to remove illegal migrants is a wise idea.

    There was a blurb on the news last night that the US is spending $18 billion a year to fight illegal immigration. That is more than they spend on the Secret Service, the FBI and one other agency I don't remember off hand combined.

     

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    •  
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      That One Guy (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:25am

      Re: Sounds like they are getting a bargain

      On one hand, I really doubt those numbers, unless they are adding in a whole slew of 'potentially related' costs to beef the number up and make it seem larger.

      Yet on the other, given the US's track record regarding proper priorities and their utter lack of them, it wouldn't terribly surprise me if the numbers were at least close.

       

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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:21am

    This should be a Monty Python sketch!

    "We advise anyone contacted in error to contact us so records can be updated. Where our records show that people are here illegally, it is vital we are able to contact them as we are determined that they should return home."


    UKBA: Hello.

    IMMIGRANT: Hello, I'd like to report an error in your records...

    UKBA: Oh, I see, OK then what seems to be the problem?

    IMMIGRANT: Well it's my immigration status - it's wrong...

    UKBA: Wrong? Oh, so it's reporting that you're here illegally, is that the problem?

    IMMIGRANT: No, it says I'm a legal immigrant, but it's wrong.

    UKBA: How so?

    IMMIGRANT: Well. I'm actually an illegal immigrant, but your system is wrong, it says I'm a legal immigrant, you see.

    UKBA: Oh well, that's terrible. What an aweful inconvenience for you...

    IMMIGRANT: Yes, there I was getting on with life in the UK and I realised I just wasn't receiving the level of suspicion and harassment that I was used to.

    UKBA: Well let's see if we can fix that then shall we?

    IMMIGRANT: Why thankyou very much!

    UKBA: Of course, I fully understand [goes into back office for 2 minutes then returns with papers]. There we go, all fixed now, you are no longer a legal immigrant. Good luck!

    IMMIGRANT: Thanks... err... aren't you going to deport me?

    UKBA: What? Oh.. umm... well no, I can't. Not my department you see. We contract it out, so you'll have to wait till you receive a text message...

    IMMIGRANT: A text message? A TEXT MESSAGE? This is blatently unfair treatment! I make the effort to come down here and get my illegal status fixed, and all you can do is send a text message.

    UKBA: Now calm down...

    IMMIGRANT: Calm down?! What about my human rights... I demand to be deported right now!

    UKBA: Perhaps you'd like to take a seat and I'll talk to my manager and see what we can do.

    IMMIGRANT: OK fine. [mutters] you just can't get the service these days...

    UKBA [returns]: Hello, OK we can't deport you right now, but what we can do is have a policeman rough you up a bit. How does that sound?

    IMMIGRANT: I suppose I'll have to settle for that for now. Bastards!

    UKBA: Right... Officer...!

    Immigrant: Ouch! You bastard!

     

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    Michael, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:50am

    iPad

    They should offer illegal immigrants an iPad if they leave the country on their own.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:59am

    Would the ultimate irony have been that Capita hired illegal immigrants to send out the texts?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    the UK border agencies couldn't find their asses if they were holding them in both hands! it does show, however, how skilled they are at sorting out illegal immigrants though doesn't it

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 8:47am

    Goddamn it they took my jerb.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    It has certainly not been clearly showed that the TCO of Open Source is in the long run lower than that of proprietary alternatives.

    Sure, lost of people say it is, but most of those people are not doing it for a living.

    And to expect commercial quality as opposed to hobby quality is something that has to be considered.

    Clearly, that is what Greece has done, they at least know they are getting something with a well proven track record.

    OSS is good, but it's not commercial grade, it never has been and probably never will be. It is also not progressing technically nearly as quick as the commercial and paid for alternatives.

    What it comes down too, and you here should already know this, free is not always the right price, and nothing is really free. Especially OSS..

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 2:40am

      Re:

      "OSS is good, but it's not commercial grade, it never has been and probably never will be."

      Since this a blatant lie, why should I believe anything else you say? Unless you honestly think that Fortune 500 companies are basing their infrastructure on non-commercial grade software, etc.

      Why do such easily disproven fallacies always seem to form the very basis of anti-OSS arguments?

      "It is also not progressing technically nearly as quick as the commercial and paid for alternatives."

      Citation needed.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 5:39pm

    Well, it's a good start.

     

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