UK: Government think tank gives cautious response to Border Agency reforms

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The Institute for Government has commented on the decision to scrap the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) – which handles claims made by asylum seekers fleeing homophobic persecution.

In a statement, Sir Ian Magee, senior fellow of the institute, gave a cautious response: “The announcement last week that the UK Borders Agency was to be scrapped raises some interesting wider questions,” he said. “This is the latest of many reorganisations that Borders and its predecessors have undergone in the last few years. There are clearly problems that need to be addressed, but is a structural reorganisation of a government department or its constituent parts really the best way to tackle them?”

Sir added: “In no doubt seeking to reassure staff, Mark Sedwill, Home Office permanent secretary, was quoted as saying ‘most of us will still be doing the same job in the same place with the same colleagues for the same boss’.

“Restructuring creates an impression, superficially, of action to solve problems. The acid test is will performance improve as a result? It is unclear that the organisation, which started as part of the Home Office many years ago, faltered then for a variety of reasons, and has undergone several crises since, will be significantly improved simply by shuffling the pieces again now.”

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs last month that the Border Agency’s performance was “not good enough” and confirmed it would be split with its work moved back into the Home Office.

The UK Border Agency was formed in 2008 as an arms-length agency of the Home Office.

It is the second time the UK Border Agency has been split in just over a year.

In the wake of the government’s decision, the Liberal Democrats’ LGBT group called for greater reform of LGBT asylum policy.

Human rights groups, MPs and lawyers have frequently documented alleged cases of UKBA deporting LGBT and heterosexual asylum seekers back to countries such as Uganda where they face persecution.

The claims have always been denied by UKBA and the Home Office.