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Border Agency Foul-Up Sees Immigrants Wrongly Told To Get Out Of Blighty

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

People wrongly told to leave Britain leading Capita to suspect it is sitting on some dodgy data

People who are legally allowed to be living in the UK have been told to go home, after a gaffe involving the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and IT contractor Capita.

Capita, one of the UK’s top outsourcing bodies, was contracted by the border agency in September to help locate and warn 174,000 illegal immigrants.

But thanks to dodgy data records, a number of people have been wrongly texted or emailed and asked to leave the country. Capita said it was getting in contact with individuals directly, claiming “many of the details the UK Border Agency has on file may be inaccurate and out of date given the age of the cases”.

Border agency fails

“The UK Border Agency has contracted the support of Capita to contact individuals (using letters, email, SMS and outbound telephone contact) whose records show that they have no valid right to be in the UK.  In a small number of cases this might include individuals who are now here legally,” a spokesperson said.

“A contact telephone number is provided for applicants to discuss their case, and any individual contacted who believes they have valid leave should make use of this number.”

This isn’t the first time the Home Office-run UKBA has been at the centre of a tech fail. In February last year, it scrapped its Iris Recognition Immigration Systems, after mass criticism for the technology. Some said using IRIS was slower than going through traditional passport control, but the government splashed £9 million on the initiative anyway.

In 2011, US contractor Raytheon decided to sue the government for terminating a UKBA IT contract for the controversial e-Borders system, which collected information on people entering and exiting the country. That project was slammed a year later, when the Home Affairs Committee said it had  wasted “millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money”.

Capita hasn’t had the most auspicious start to 2012 either. TechWeekEurope learned the UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, is to ditch its single IT services deal with Capita and split it up into six smaller contracts.

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