Back in September of this year the UKBA awarded a contract worth an estimated £40 million to private sector company Capita to find 174,000 illegal immigrants and overstayers in the UK and to assist in their removal.  This clearly forms part of the commitment that UKBA have made to focus on enforcement and to increase removals from its current level of 40,000 people a year.

Capita, who beat 3 other companies to win the contract, will be paid for each illegal migrant that they contact who then leaves the UK, so essentially the contract will be run on a results-based arrangement.  However, how success in this respect will be gauged is undefined, with the Chief Executive of the UKBA publicly admitting that it is unknown how many of this pool of migrants have already left the UK after having had applications refused. 

In a statement in October Capita announced:

“The contract affects foreign nationals who have typically entered the UK on valid student or work visas but have subsequently been refused extensions and have either not left the UK or their return has not been tracked. Working closely with the UK Border Agency, Capita will:

increase the number of voluntary departures from this pool of cases;

assist the Agency contacting those who are in the UK by ‘phone, email, letter or other means as appropriate; 

remind overstayers of the law and their obligations; 

assist the progression of the cases to enforcement where the individual refuses to leave the UK voluntarily”.

It is understood that UKBA have handed over to Capita the records of these 174,000 migrants in order to assist in tracking them down and indications from an earlier pilot project run by Serco suggest that approximately 20% of missing migrants left the UK after having been contacted by Capita.

Worryingly though are the recent reports that migrants who have outstanding applications with the UKBA are being contacted.  In more than one case known to us, the individuals have been contacted by Capita by phone and by text and told that they must leave the UK, when in fact they are awaiting decisions on applications lodged with the UKBA. (Although in most instances after a refusal migrants are required to leave the UK within 28 days, it is sometimes possible to apply for leave in another category or in some circumstances appeal against the decision).

It is also evident that even where migrants have legal representatives acting on their behalf, it is the migrants themselves who are being contacted by Capita. This is clearly a very stressful experience for the migrants concerned, causing them significant panic and distress.  Consequently, clarification is being sought from the UKBA as to why it is happening and what can be done to prevent such occurrences.

In the meantime, if you are in the process of extending your UK visa and find yourself on the receiving end of one of these phone calls we would strongly advise you to contact Newland Chase or your current representative before taking any further action.