Matthew Hickley, Daily Mail (UK), August 23, 2006
It will take more than a century to clear the backlog of failed asylum seekers, latest figures reveal. The past 12 months have seen 3,500 more deportations than new cases.
But, with an estimated 400,000 rejected asylum seekers still living here illegally, it would take another 113 years to clear the backlog.
John Reid astonished MPs last month by promising to complete the deportations ‘within five years and hopefully sooner’.
The Home Secretary soon backtracked and claimed he was referring only to failed asylum seekers ‘who can be found’ by immigration officers.
Tony Blair’s target of having more deportations than new cases has led to major distortions in Home Office operations. The department’s 1,100 enforcement staff now have to concentrate almost exclusively on sending home failed asylum seekers.
Work neglected as a result includes the deportation of foreign prisoners, a policy area that cost Charles Clarke his job as home secretary.
The Mail reported last week that immigration officers routinely ignore tip-offs from employers warning of illegal immigrants applying for jobs with forged papers.
The officers say they lack the manpower to investigate the calls while also searching for failed asylum seekers.
In the three months to June this year 5,070 illegals were removed from the UK, up slightly on the previous three months. Around 40 per cent of those went home voluntarily, taking advantage of £3,000 bribes and free flights. Forced deportations cost £11,000.
In the same three-month period, 4,185 asylum seekers lodged claims that are expected to be dismissed. This cut the backlog by only 295 a month — around 3,500 a year.
Damian Green, Tory immigration spokesman, said: ‘At this rate it would take over a century to clear the backlog thus undermining John Reid’s claim to resolve this problem within five years. In any case, this was an artificial target designed to grab headlines rather than address the problem, which has resulted in the Government taking its eye off the ball in several other important areas.’
Last month, the Home Office dramatically increased its estimate of the number of illegals living in Britain.
A trawl through old files uncovered an astonishing 200,000 forgotten cases — taking the total to 400,000 or more.
At the current rate, the last of these would be deported some time in the year 2119. Officials accept, however, that many will probably never be tracked down or sent home.
The overall number of asylum applications continued to fall in the three months to June. Cases were down 12 per cent on last year, with 6,380 would-be refugees arriving in the UK. The chief countries of origin were Afghanistan, China and Eritrea.
Eight out of ten asylum seekers are refused permission to stay in the UK. Almost all go on to lodge appeals, around a quarter of which are successful. Around 55,000 asylum seekers receive state benefits.
Home Office minister Tony McNulty yesterday hailed the latest figures, claiming they gave ‘many reasons to be optimistic that we can restore public confidence in our immigration system’.