Failed asylum seekers 'not being deported'
By Philip Johnston,
Home Affairs Editor
The number of failed asylum seekers being removed from the country has fallen to a five-year low, new figures have shown.
Despite promises to clear a backlog of up to 285,000 foreign nationals, fewer than 1,000 were deported in September.
At the same time, the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country was double that figure.
In the three months to September, there were 3,120 removals – an 18 per cent fall on last year and the lowest number since the second quarter of 2002.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This is another sign that the Government's tough talk on immigration and asylum is not matched by effective action.
“The fall in the number of removals means the Government is failing completely to make inroads into the backlog of half a million people who have no right to be in this country.”
The Government claimed the reason for the drop was that officials were concentrating on deporting foreign criminals and illegal workers.
Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said overall deportations were running at around 45,000 for the year.
But two years ago, ministers said they would remove more failed asylum seekers than there were unfounded new applications.
This so-called ''tipping point” target has now effectively been abandoned, despite being a priority for Tony Blair, the previous prime minister.
Mr Byrne said: ''The first people we should send home are those who break British laws. ''We're removing record numbers of foreign criminals including illegal workers who risk undercutting UK wages.”
The Government says it will deport 4,000 foreign national prisoners this year.
Overall asylum applications are running at the lowest level for at least a decade, though they went up in the third quarter of this year. The total is expected to be around 20,000 by the end of the year – the lowest since the early 1990s.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “Removals are the lowest they have been for years and fall far short of the Government's target. “The pool of failed asylum seekers, already about a quarter of a million, will have grown by about 2,500 so far this year.”
He added: “This failure to remove undermines the integrity of the whole system.”
Separate figures showed that east Europeans continue to pour into the country looking for jobs.
Since May 2004 when eight former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU, three quarters of a million people have registered to work.
Many thousands more who do not need to register, such as the self-employed, have almost certainly pushed the total above one million.
But it is impossible to say how many have remained in the country for any length of time.
Most of the east Europeans say they are only coming for a short period, such as three months. But a growing number are claiming child benefit and receiving tax credits.
Nearly 80,000 have been approved for child benefit payments and 45,000 for tax credits. This is three times the number at the end of 2006 and is an indication that many east Europeans – mainly Poles – are staying on.
Once an EU migrant has been working here for 12 months, they are entitled to the same level of support as any British citizen.
Child benefit is worth 18.10 a week for the oldest child and 12.10 each of the others British taxpayers are spending more than 1million a month in child benefit to the families of youngsters who live in the former Soviet bloc countries.
Tax credits – which are effectively a benefit as well – are also generous. A worker with two children earning 165 for a 30 hour week can claim credits worth many thousands of pounds a year.
These benefits are paid to a worker in Britain even if his family stays at home provided he has paid taxes.
17 November 2007: The Nativity as an asylum seekers' tale
14 November 2007: '10,000 illegal immigrants' work in security
4 November 2007: 'Non-existent asylum centres cost 35 million'