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Asylum seekers paid £13m in error

The agency responsible for securing Britain's borders has paid out £13 million of benefits in error to asylum seekers over the past two years.

The UK Border Agency discovered during 2008/09 that it carried on making payments for accommodation and direct support to a number of asylum seekers after they stopped being eligible.

Officials found that a system designed to stop payments as soon as a decision was made for asylum support to be ceased had not operated as intended, meaning the cash continued to be paid out.

Some £9.6 million was overpaid in 2008/09 and £3.5 million in 2009/10, revealed the agency's annual accounts.

The agency has now introduced new checks to ensure that payments are stopped as soon as a ruling is made that the recipient is not entitled to support.

The accounts also revealed that the agency had overpaid staff some £4.3 million, often due to late notification of unpaid leave or employees quitting their posts. Some £1.4 million of the cash, involving around 600 cases, was being written off as unrecoverable.

The agency was forced to hand over a total of around £3 million last year in compensation - including £2.1 million to 40 under-18s who were wrongly detained as adults and sums of around £360,000 each to two members of the public who were unlawfully detained and £330,000 to a refugee who was treated as an adult rather than a minor due to delays processing paperwork. And it is in dispute over £12 million claimed by six organisations which provide accommodation for asylum seekers, the accounts revealed.

Agency chief executive Lin Homer said: "Overpayments should not be happening and we are committed to seeing them dramatically reduced. It is crucial that taxpayers' money is spent wisely."

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "The majority of the Agency's budget goes on the 25,000 staff members based around the world tasked with securing Britain's border, removing thousands of foreign criminals, and levelling millions of pounds worth of fines at rogue firms who hire illegal workers.

"But improvements still need to be made, which is why we have announced an Asylum Improvement Project to ensure the system is faster and better value for money, and why we are committed to tackling abuse of the student visa system."


From Belfast Telegraph