Yesterday, yet again, we saw headline news being made by a shocking tale of incompetence and mismanagement by the UK Border Agency, the body set up in 2008 to control immigration to this country.
The backlog of cases piled up in the agency’s labyrinthine system, we are told, amounts to 276,000, equivalent to the population of Newcastle. Most of the migrants are here illegally and should have been sent home years ago.
They include 150,000 foreign workers and students still in Britain even though they were refused extensions to their visas; 101,000 untraced ‘asylum seekers’ left over from when 450,000 ‘forgotten files’ were discovered in 2005; and 3,900 foreign offenders released by the courts to protect their human rights.
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, calls the Border Agency ‘a Bermuda triangle’ for immigrants who find it easy enough to get into Britain from anywhere in the world, but then vanish off the radar because there is no way of tracing them, let alone deporting them because they entered illegally or have broken our laws.
Scandals surrounding our immigration policy are so commonplace that we all accept it is completely out of control.
MPs like Mr Vaz — whose committee is so exasperated it is now reporting on the Border Agency’s performance every three months — regularly jump up and down asking for something to be done.
But even though it is officially predicted that within eight years Britain’s population will have increased by another five million, nothing ever happens.
Home Secretaries from Labour’s John Reid and Charles Clarke to the Coalition’s Theresa May have faced a torrent of criticism — to which they reply with limp bureaucratic statements, promising action.
But things just go from bad to worse.
Behind this dismal picture, however, lies a much bigger story and one we are simply not being told about. The reason why our immigration policy is in such a shambles is that we do not have any control over it.
The real explanation for almost everything we find so horrifying about this mess is that virtually every aspect of our policy is no longer decided here in Britain at all, but is dictated by a morass of international rules and, above all, by those emanating from the EU.
We are familiar with the fact that, since ten more countries joined the EU in 2004, including Poland and those of formerly Communist eastern Europe, we have had to admit anyone from the 28 countries of the EU, giving them the right to live and work here and to enjoy a wide range of benefits such as our NHS and schools.
But if you examine the section of the EU’s ‘Europa’ website headed ‘Free movement of persons, asylum and immigration’, you will see three pages of headings covering every conceivable aspect of immigration policy, from visa rules to our duties to asylum seekers.
As these headings make clear, the rules, many based on UN and other international agreements, cover not just the way we must treat EU citizens but how we deal with immigrants from the rest of the world.
The scandal of this is twofold. It is not just that successive governments have handed over to the EU the power to dictate every aspect of who we must admit to live and work in Britain, it is also the extent to which politicians such as Mrs May will not honestly and openly admit this.
Ministers and MPs continue to pretend that we at least have some control over immigration by what they slyly call ‘non-EU citizens’.
But the truth is that we have signed up to a vast system of international rules about how we must treat migrants, no matter where they come from — which mean that our politicians and officials, like those of the UK Border Agency, no longer have any choice but to obey them.
The reason why the Border Agency is faced with this horrifying backlog of cases involving immigrants, most of whom should no longer be here, is that in everything it does the agency tries to follow more zealously than any other country in Europe the procedures of the system we signed up to, a system so tortuously complex that it is unworkable.
And on top of this we have all the absurdities piled on us by the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights, into British law.