The Home Office must place a new emphasis on the enforcement of internal controls to tackle illegal migration. This must include effective cross-government action, says the Home Affairs Committee in a report published today, Sunday 23 July 2006.

While initial entry and border controls must be sustained and improved, the changing patterns and purpose of migration mean that illegal migration will increasingly be fuelled by those who enter the country legitimately but then remain illegally. A major test of the Governments new approach to the IND will be the extent to which it has recognised the importance and implication of this change.

The employment of illegal workers should be one of the main targets for action against illegal migrants: tackling tax and national insurance evasion as well as ensuring that companies comply with all their legal obligations as employers would reduce the financial advantages of employing illegal workers, and thus one of the drivers for illegal migration.

The report recognises that modern patterns of migration pose new challenges for Government. Facilitating travel for tourists, family members, students, businesspeople and workers who meet labour needs is essential to our national interests, and an immigration service cannot simply be designed to exclude people from the country. At the same time, the Committee shares the public expectation that the number of those who abuse the system must be minimised.

The evidence the Committee received on the need for migrant labour, and the economic benefits and drawbacks as well as the social advantages and stresses of migration, highlighted the absence of any single body responsible for weighing up these diverse and sometimes conflicting factors and determining the overall migration strategy. The Committee recommends the establishment of  a Cabinet Committee with representatives from all relevant Departments with overall responsibility for all aspects of immigration policy.

Amongst the key conclusions reached by the Committee are:

  • Current enforcement efforts are clearly inadequate
  • It is not clear that enforcement efforts are based on the principle of harm reduction: the current removal policy is directed at the pool of illegal immigrants already here, who may be settled with family, and is not keeping pace with new decisions
  • Whilst continuing action to remove people already living in the UK illegally will be necessary the first priority should be to align the removal system with the decision-making system.  

Examining the wider immigration system the Committee also conclude that

  • it is clearly beneficial to everyone to invest in getting initial decisions right. Measures that emphasise speed, or lower the cost of front-line staff, at the expense of good-quality decisions, are not likely to be cost-effective overall
  • poor-quality decisions are damaging to individuals and families and will prove costly either through the appeals system or through allowing applications which should have been refused and increasing the risk of illegal migration
  • the current operation of the appeals system, with a clear lack of confidence between AIT and entry clearance officers, is not a sound basis for this vital part of the immigration system. Thousands of appeal refusals might be better and more cheaply dealt with at an earlier stage

The Committee concludes that the biggest single management challenge for the IND is to create clear lines of responsibility and accountability for staff at every level, and recommends that Government establish an Independent Immigration Inspectorate to oversee every stage of immigration control.

The management failures exposed by the handling of foreign national prisoners and elsewhere are all examples of hard work undermined by a failure to take responsibility for the overall performance of the system. Without profound cultural change, individual measures are unlikely to produce the required results.

John Denham, Chairman of the Committee said: “Managing migration is a complex and difficult job. We need a high quality service for millions of legitimate travellers and those entitled to live here temporarily or permanently.  But we must also tackle abuse of the system. The immigration system has not developed to deal with those twin challenges effectively.

Our report highlights many ways in which the administration and decision making in the system could be improved. But the biggest single change must be a far more focussed effort on enforcement within the United Kingdom.  A refusal notice should lead inexorably to voluntary or compulsory departure. And the pull factor for new migrants must be reduced by taking effective action against the employers of illegal labour.

In a wide ranging report the Committee makes further recommendations on:

  • the entry clearance system overseas and border and embarkation controls in the UK
  • the quality of the application and decision making process and training and monitoring of entry clearance staff
  • the system of targets
  • management structures of IND
  • the appeals process
  • enforcement of the immigration rules
  • the removal or foreign national prisoners
  • the rules governing student and marriage visas
  • the protection of children

Notes to editors:

    1. This is the Committees Fifth Report of Session 2005-06, HC 775.
    2. Media enquiries or bids for the Chairman John Denham please contact Jessica Bridges Palmer, tel 020 7219 0724 / 07917 488 447 (24hrs), email: 

The Committee  membership is as follows:

Rt Hon John Denham (Chairman) (Lab) (Southampton Itchen) Mr Richard Benyon (Con) (Newbury)
Gwyn Prosser (Lab) (Dover) Mr Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) (Taunton)
Bob Russell (Lib Dem) (Colchester) Ms Karen Buck (Lab) (Regents Park & Kensington North)
Martin Salter (Lab) (Reading West) Mr James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Mr Richard Spring (Con) (West Suffolk) Mrs Ann Cryer (Lab) (Keighley)
Mr Gary Streeter (Con) (South West Devon) Mrs Janet Dean (Lab) (Burton)
Mr David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North) Margaret Moran (Lab) (Luton South)


Specific Committee Information:  Tel 020 7219 3276, email:
Committee Website:
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