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UK Border Agency: Change needed says inspectors

September 19, 2012, 9:20 am

The UK Border Agency needs to improve the pace of change within its family returns procedure, according to an independent advisory board.                                       

The Independent Family Returns Panels (IFRP) first annual report recognises that the new family returns procedure, which manages the return of families with no right to be in the UK, is much improved in what has been a ‘tough year for the UKBA. However the IFRP raises concerns about the speed at which these improvements are being made.

The IFRP provides advice to the UKBA on the best way to remove families who refuse to leave voluntarily and ensures the welfare needs of the children involved are met. Their first annual report reveals only 29 percent of the families who entered the returns system in March 2011 had an outcome to their cases 12 months later.

The report, which praises UKBA for no longer holding families for indefinite periods of time, says the IFRP is concerned by a noticeable regional difference in the numbers of cases referred to them. They suggest this is because some regional teams are not as focused on the returns process as others.

The IFRP Chairman, Christopher Spencer said:

“There are many layers to the family returns process and despite the difficulties the UK Border Agency has encountered this year, the improvements we have seen are promising.

“But we need to give families the best possible chance of making a successful transition back to their home countries and the pace of progress by the UK Border Agency needs to be stepped up.”

“Returning families to their country of origin against their wishes is a sobering endeavour but UK Border Agency can do more. It has both the skills and facilities to make the returns process even easier for families.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for further improvement includes:

  • ·         giving priority to cases involving young children.
  • ·         improving consistency in guidelines and learning across UKBA.
  • ·         Border Force to provide the IFRP with monthly data on the number of children detained in holding rooms at UK ports; and
  • ·         UKBA should ensure private contractors who help during the family returns process meet their targets.

From March 2011 to March 2012 families entering the returns process totalled 665 with 109 of them being returned. The IFRP recommends that more of these families would benefit from a stay at Cedars, a child friendly pre-departure centre in Sussex, in which a family is given as much support as possible to help them come to terms with their removal. The IFRP states this is particularly important for children who up until the point of arrest may have been unaware of their status and the possibility of removal.

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