Matthew Hickley, Daily Mail (London), January 23, 2009
As many as nine out of ten failed asylum seekers are being allowed to stay in Britain despite having no right to remain, a report from a Government watchdog reveals today.
The backlog of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation is growing fast as the UK Border Agency fails to keep pace with the number of rejected applicants. The number of unprocessed cases is also growing.
And Government rules stating that all successful asylum seekers must have their cases reviewed after five years–to see if their country is now safe enough to return to–have descended into farce, because the Border Agency has no way of tracking those living in Britain and no plans for a review.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling called the report, from the National Audit Office, a ‘shocking indictment of the shambles that is our immigration and asylum system’. Meanwhile, the Commons Public Accounts Committee, to which the NAO reports, claimed the Agency was ‘struggling to cope.’
Last year, the Home Office introduced the ‘New Asylum Model’ in a bid to streamline Britain’s chaotic asylum system, by assigning each case to a single civil servant from start to finish.
Today’s report acknowledges that the £800million-a-year system is now ‘better organised than before’, but highlights grave problems which in many cases are getting worse.
A surge in the number of asylum claims saw the backlog of undecided cases more than double in a year, to almost 9,000.
The NAO tracked more than 25,000 claims lodged from January 2007 to February 2008, of which almost 14,000 were refused.
But of 10,719 cases processed in the seven regions around the UK, only 918–less than 10 per cent–had actually been deported by the following August.
The rate was higher for 3,000 false claimants who were fast-tracked in detention. Including these claims, the overall removal rate was just one in four.
A severe shortage of detention spaces is making removals harder, the report warned, with much of the available capacity taken up by foreign criminals who have completed their sentences and are awaiting deportation.
The NAO also highlighted glaring inefficiencies, including:
o Seventy per cent of planned deportations–where security staff accompany deportees on flights home–are cancelled, often due to lack of proper coordination, leading to ‘additional work and costs’.
o The Agency often has to buy emergency travel documents from foreign governments to deport failed asylum seekers, but 13,000 of these have been wasted because individuals absconded, or because the papers expired.
o Since 2005, Britain has granted asylum for five years only–after which cases should be reviewed in the hope that some immigrants will be able to return home.
But astonishingly the Border Agency ‘has no process’ to track refugees living in Britain and ‘no plans in place to review these cases’.
There are 8,000 due for review next year.
Last night, the Agency’s chief executive Lin Homer confirmed there was ‘no requirement’ for asylum seekers to tell officials when they move house.
Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch, said: ‘This is a shameful performance for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. It is no surprise that asylum seekers, many of them bogus, are queuing up in Calais.’