Just before Christmas, reports started coming in of migrants in the UK receiving distressing text messages from a company claiming to work for the Border Agency.
The BBC reported that people living legally in the UK have been incorrectly told to leave the country by Capita PLC, a firm working for the government.
Whats the Scam here?
Update, Jan 9: Don Flynn of Migrants’ Rights Network takes up the issue at Huffington Post, noting that many recipients of these texts are assuming it’s a scam. After all, what kind of government would try to sort out a chaotic immigration system by getting a company to send random text messages? Surely a scam? No. As Don points out – “the scam seems to be the UK Border Agency offloading years of ineptness onto a private company in the belief that it would provide a quick fix for its embarrassing failure to manage the system.”
So whats it all about?
Capita was contracted by the UK Border Agency in September to track down 174,000 potentially “illegal” migrants. The bounty hunter contract, as it has been dubbed, could be worth £40million for Capita. The contract comprises “payment-by-results elements based on a number of agreed outcomes”. The details, however, remain a corporate secret.
Capita is one of the multinational companies profiting from outsourced government contracts. In the UK, Capita recently bought Reliance Secure Task Management, the company contracted to provide housing for asylum seekers in the south of England, and also to provide “escort” guards on deportation flights.
Warning from lawyers – and how to complain
The Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) has filed complaints with the Border Agency, and has advice on what to do if Capita contacts you in error. ILPA is particularly worried about breaches of Data Protection Act, harassment of those who have permission to stay, and Capita’s bypassing of legal representation by texting people directly.
From the ILPA website:
ILPA is receiving a number of reports of persons under immigration control receiving text messages on their phones from Capita Plc saying that they need to leave the UK and giving a phone number to call. ILPA has raised with the UK Border Agency that messages have been sent to persons, ranging from students to persons who have invested a million pounds in the UK, who have a valid visa and whom the Agency in no way expects or intends to be forced to leave.
ILPA has raised with the UK Border Agency the distress and confusion these messages are causing, highlighting inter alia the fourth data protection principle, which requires that personal data be accurate and kept up to date.
We have also complained that texts are going directly to individuals even where these individuals have a legal representative on record. We are informed by the UK Border Agency that in the event of any problems, those affected or their legal representatives should get in touch with CapitaContact@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk