UK Border Agency - Role


Further information: Illegal immigration to the United Kingdom

The agency attained full agency status on 1 April 2009. Immigration Officers and Customs Officers retained their own powers for the enforcement and administration of the UK's borders, although management of the new organisation is integrated and progressively officers are cross trained and empowered to deal with customs and immigration matters at the border. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 received Royal Assent on 21 July 2009. This allows the concurrent exercise of customs powers by HMRC Commissioners and the Director of Border Revenue; it is the first step in overhauling immigration and customs legislation.

The UK Border Agency has a staff of 23,500 people located in over 130 countries. Overseas staff vet visa applications and operate an intelligence and liaison network, acting as the first layer of border control for the UK. The organisation operates as the single force at the border for the UK. Local immigration teams work within the regions of the United Kingdom, liaising with the police, HMRC, local authorities and the public. In August 2009 HM Revenue and Customs transferred several thousand customs detection officers to the agency, following Parliament agreeing to give it customs control powers. The agency now investigates smuggling. The agency is developing a single primary border control line at the UK border combining controls of people and goods entering the country.

The agency's E-borders programme checks travellers to and from the UK in advance of travel, using data provided by passengers via their airline or ferry operators. The organisation uses automatic clearance gates at main international airports.

The agency manages the UK Government's limit on non-European economic migration to the UK. It is responsible for in-country enforcement operations, investigating organised immigration crime and to detecting immigration offenders including illegal entrants and overstayers. The body is also responsible for the deportation of foreign national criminals at the end of sentences.

The UK Border Agency's budget combined with that of the Border Force was £2.17 billion in 2011-12. Under the spending review the agency will cut costs by up to 23%. At its peak the agency employed around 25,000 staff, but 5,000 posts are due to be cut by 2015 against the 2011-12 levels.

Founding Chief Executive Lin Homer left the agency in January 2011 to become the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport. Deputy Chief Executive Jonathan Sedgwick was acting chief until the new CEO, Rob Whiteman, took over on 26 September 2011. Sedgwick is now director of international operations and visas. In July 2011, the strategic policy functions of the agency moved to the Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced to Parliament on 26 March 2013 that the agency would be abolished due to continuing poor performance, and replaced by two new smaller organisations which would focus on the visa system and immigration law enforcement respectively. The UKBA's performance was described as "not good enough", partly blamed on the size of the organisation. A report by MP's also criticised the agency, and described it as "not fit for purpose". It was also claimed that the agency had provided inaccurate reports to the Home Affairs Select Committee over a number of years. The agency was split internally on 1 April 2013, becoming a visa and immigration service and separate immigration law enforcement service.

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