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ICO to investigate SMS messages sent to immigrants by Capita

UK Borders Agency campaign harrassed legal citizens

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) and Capita could find themselves in hot water with the Information Commissioner for allegedly wrongly sending hundreds of SMS messages accusing UK citizens of being illegal immigrants and asking them to leave the country.

In September, the UKBA awarded a contract to Capita to track down and contact 174,000 immigrants accused of staying in the country illegally, but in several hundred cases in recent weeks the texts are reported to have been received by UK passport holders.

"Message from the UK Border Agency: you are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain," the texts reportedly read. Many were received over the Christmas period.

Some recipients had assumed the texts were spam and simply ignored them while other continued to receive texts despite contacting the UKBA to report.

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner said thte organisation would investigate whether the information being held by the UKBA complied with the requirement of the Data Protection Act (DPA) to ensure its accuracy.

It's not clear whether the error lies with the information supplied to Capita or the latter's handling of that data.

"It's important that organisations make sure they are taking reasonable steps to ensure they comply with the Data Protection Act, including ensuring the personal information they hold is adequate, accurate, and where necessary, kept up to date," the ICO said.

"If anyone feels that an organisation has not handled their information fairly then they can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office."

Last July the UKBA was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) over delays to its £385 million Immigration Case Work (ICW) IT system designed to automate some of the department's workload.

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