Following last year’s split which saw the UK Border Force (responsible for daily operations) stop being part of the UK Border Agency, the Home Secretary has now announced that the Agency is to be abolished altogether.
Theresa May commented that the "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."
The announcement follows criticisms of the agency’s performance over the past year. It was described as “not fit for purpose” in the Home Affairs Select Committee report that was published on Monday. Former UKBA chief executive until 2010, Lin Homer, was in particular condemned for having “repeatedly misled” the Committee on the extent of backlogs in asylum cases. Current UKBA chief executive, Rob Whiteman, also faced criticism for failing to highlight the severity of the backlog.
The UK Border Agency’s functions will now be returning to the Home Office. However ironically in 2006, the then Home Secretary had declared the Home Office’s immigration directorate as being not fit for purpose. The UK Border Agency was subsequently created in 2008 by the merging of the Border and Immigration Agency, UK visas and sections of HMRC.
The Government will be splitting up the UK Border Agency into an immigration and visa service and an immigration law enforcement organisation. Also proposed is the formation of a board to oversee the current organisations in the immigration system (immigration policy, the Passport Service, Border Force) and the two new bodies. Proposed changes also include an overhaul of the agency’s IT systems.
The proposals may assist business immigration. Rob Whiteman said
“By creating two entities instead of one we will be able to create distinct cultures. First, a high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions about who comes here, with a culture of customer satisfaction for business men and visitors who want to come here legally. And second, an organisation that has law enforcement at its heart and gets tough on those who break our immigration laws”.
Theresa May alluded to the need for increased accountability stating “it could and should get better”. However even with this and the promises of new systems it cannot be ignored that the rebranding exercise has therefore come full circle, once again immigration control and enforcement will be under ministerial control.
Unsurprisingly in his announcement, current chief executive Rob Whitman said
“While we have been making some progress in tackling backlogs, and improving performance and systems, we must acknowledge that many more urgent improvements are required. The changes which the Home Secretary has announced today assist in that challenge”.
Many will question the extent of the progress that has been made under the UK Border Agency’s watch and it remains to be seen whether the latest reorganisation of the bodies for immigration control will be effective.