UK PM Cameron plans tougher immigration crackdown

London: British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday unveiled further plans to tighten rules for foreigners in the country, even as the department in charge of tackling immigration came under severe criticism for its inability to clear backlogs of over 300,000 unresolved immigration cases.

Migrants are to lose their right to benefits after six months unless they "have a genuine chance of finding work", Cameron wrote in an article in The Sun ahead of a major speech on immigration, which also sets out steps to restrict the rights of some immigrants to social housing in the country.

Meanwhile, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) came under attack from the Home Affairs Select Committee for its inability to clear backlogs of unresolved immigration cases.

In its latest report into the immigration agency released here Monday, the committee in charge of examining the administration of the UK Home Office and its associated bodies said that for six years the UKBA had repeatedly supplied incorrect information about the size of the asylum backlog and measures supposedly being taken.

"It will take years to clear the backlog and until that backlog is cleared and no new backlogs appear, it will not be fit for purpose," warned Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee of MPs.

In specific reference to Lin Homer, the former head of the department until 2010, he added, "We are very surprised that given the background she was put in charge of this organisation."

The committee said it had been supplied incorrect data by the agency for six years, and "repeatedly misled" by Homer, now the head of the UK's Revenue and Customs department who has denied the accusations as "unfair and untrue".

The committee said in its report that the failure to trace migrants with whom officials had lost contact, whose cases were placed in a closed "controlled archive", led officials to conclude that they were not in the UK when in fact tens of thousands of them could be.

The report said that the total backlog of unresolved or disputed immigration cases in the UK was 312,726 at the end of September last year - but it was not possible to be sure if that figure was accurate.

"We have always been clear that the UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation with a poor record of delivery. Turning it around will take time but I am determined to provide the public with an immigration system they can have confidence in," immigration minister Mark Harper said.

Days after his coalition partner, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg revealed tougher new visa norms for foreigners coming into the UK, Cameron is to introduce a ban on immigrants from joining social housing waiting lists for up to five years in his own major speech.

It will also include plans to tackle the expected influx of newer European Union (EU) members.

"Currently people from the EU can get free treatment on the NHS. Under our plans, if you use our hospitals but don't pay our taxes we will go after the costs in your home country,"
Cameron wrote ahead of his speech, which will attack the previous Labour government for turning Britain into a "soft touch" country.

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