March 15, 2011 • 12:43 pm

“[The National Audit Office] says that more than 180,000 migrants who should have left the country over the past two years might still be here illegally.” News Bulletin, Radio 4 Today Programme, 15 March 2011

“At least 181,000 foreign workers and other migrants could be in the country illegally because of failings in the supposedly tough points-based system” The Telegraph, 15 March 2011

The National Audit Office (NAO) today published today its findings on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) Points Based System, introduced in December 2008 to attempt to tailor inward migration to the needs of the economy. Although the NAO accepts the success of the system in attracting highly skilled migrants, they question the efficiency of the system and the control it has over work-related immigration.

The accompanying press release states that while the Agency is in possession of contact details for an estimated 181,000 failed applicants overall, they cannot be sure how many have left the UK as it lacks the ability to easily identify individuals who have overstayed their visas and does not do enough to check that migrants leave the UK if they have no right to remain.

The media have all reported this figure, but presented it in slightly different ways.

The Telegraph suggest that at least, and possibly more than, 181,000 migrants currently residing in the UK are here illegally, “migrants whose visas have either run out or have been turned down for one since the points-based system was introduced in December 2008”.

The BBC bulletin suggests that 180,000 is a lower estimate reporting that “more than 180,000” who should have left the UK since December 2008 could still be here.

The NAO clearly state in their report that the UK Border Agency estimates there to be ‘up to 181,000 migrants in total in the UK whose permission to remain has expired since 2008′,

This is of course means the “more than 180,000” reported by the BBC is accurate but is only 1,000 off the upper estimate.

That the Telegraph have reported “at least 181,000” is more problematic.

Not only does the NAO make clear that 181,000 is an upper estimate, the report also states that UKBA “expects to revise this estimate downwards”, following the emergence of new data from its e-Borders project.

The BBC seem to have been on the whole accurate in reporting the findings of the NAO but the Telegraph with their subtle difference in wording imply something entirely different.

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