Home Office claims on asylum seeker removals branded a 'mockery'
Six in ten people the Home Office claims to have removed never entered the country or left of their own accord, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 6:35AM GMT 17 Feb 2009
Immigration Officers as they stop check vehicles moving through passport control Photo: PA
Ministers boast that the UK Border Agency removes a failed asylum seeker, illegal immigrant or foreign criminal every eight minutes.
That is based on more than 63,000 people who had no right to stay in the UK and were removed or left in 2007, the most recent figures.
But almost half of those were turned back at a port of entry and one in ten left voluntary.
The Daily Telegraph can also disclose that up to a quarter of a million failed asylum seekers who should have been removed under Labour are still here.
Figures slipped out to MPs in a parliamentary written answer show in 2007 some 63,365 people were removed, left voluntarily or took advantage of the assisted returns packages.
As a result ministers continually defend the work of the UK Border Agency by claiming it removes someone every eight minutes.
But 31,145 or 49 per cent – of those were refused at a port of entry, either here or at points abroad, and never officially entered the UK.
A further 6,885 11 per cent were in the UK but left of their own accord without informing the immigration authorities.
A separate investigation by this newspaper shows at least 227,000 failed asylum seekers who should have been removed since 1997 may still be here.
The vast number does not even include those involved in the 450,000 backlog cases the Home Office is desperately trying to clear, which is likely to throw up tens of thousands more.
It follows a scathing report by Government auditors last month which widely criticised performance in the asylum system.
There were just over 750,000 claims for asylum, including dependants, between 1997 and 2007, based on the Home Office's own statistics.
Of those, just over 541,000 were refused.
The National Audit Office estimates seven in ten refusals go to appeal, of which between 20 and 25 per cent are overturned.
Based on that estimate just over 87,000 more would have been allowed to stay during the period, plus around 92,000 who were granted stay under effective short term amnesties to clear backlogs.
That leaves just over 362,000 but the research shows only around 136,000 were removed during the ten year period.
Some will also have left of their own accord but the Home Office has no way of knowing and it means up to at least 227,000 may still be here.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “These figures make a mockery of Labour's claim to be getting a grip on the asylum system.
“Far from making inroads into the numbers of failed asylum seekers who are in this country, the number looks set to get bigger.”
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, added: “Asylum applications are now only ten per cent of net foreign immigration but that is no excuse for such a dismal performance.”
The Home Office insisted the latest research does not represent a “full picture” because it does not account for who leave the country voluntarily or have outstanding appeals and figures for the number of dependants removed were unavailable for 1997 to 2000.
On the one in eight removal claim, a spokesman added: “Britain now has one of the toughest borders in the world and these figures are proof that our juxtaposed controls are working in 2007 we stopped 18,000 people getting into the UK, and last year we barred even more.
“We will not tolerate anyone who seeks to abuse the system, which is why we moved our border controls to France. This means we can turn people away before they even step foot on British soil.”