Immigration 'amnesty' for 160,000
By Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:05am GMT 19/12/2007
More than 160,000 illegal immigrants due for deportation may be given asylum and allowed to stay in Britain amid claims that the Government has embarked on a secret “stealth amnesty”.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has disclosed that more than a third of the backlog of illegal immigrants reconsidered for deportation had actually been granted leave to remain since 2006.
Over the past 18 months, the Government has reassessed only the cases of 52,000 illegal immigrants out of a backlog of 450,000. Of that 52,000, 19,000 have been allowed to stay – sparking fears that asylum could finally be granted to 164,000 previously due to be deported if the present rate of “amnesty” continues.
The Conservatives said that despite previous Government plans to deport those here illegally, only 16,000 had so far been sent home – three per cent of the total backlog.
Miss Smith disclosed the damning figures in a letter to the Commons home affairs committee, sent on the eve of MPs' Christmas recess.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “After 18 months effort and on their own numbers the Government can still only claim to have removed three per cent of the backlog.
“At this rate it will take decades to remove the backlog, by which time we will have another backlog since the Government is also failing to meet its target of removing more failed asylum seekers than arrive.
“Since these are people who had not been granted the right to remain in the UK, this combination of low removal rates and lengthy delays, means this is effectively a stealth amnesty. This is a policy by incompetence rather than decision.”
Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman said: “People who should have been deported have been forgotten, while people who needed sanctuary have been left in limbo, for years.”
“The Government's incompetent handling of the asylum system is wasting taxpayers' money, compromising Britain's international reputation, and fuelling public mistrust.”
Miss Smith's letter said: “We will prioritise those who may pose a risk to the public, and then focus on those who can be more easily removed.”
Many records covered people who had already left the UK, had died or were EU citizens with a right to reside here. Miss Smith said 900 caseworkers had been appointed to deal with the backlog.
An immigrant has been working illegally as a security guard at the Home Office. The man, who was arrested on Friday, is among an estimated 11,000 foreign nationals given a security licence without the right to work here.