The UK Government spent more than £8.2 million last year on chartering private jets to deport immigrants, according to official figures.
The figures, which came to light in response to a parliamentary question, also revealed that £81.5million has been spent on deportation flights since 2005.
SNP MP Pete Wishart tabled the question in light of the case of the failed asylum seeker Fatou Gaye, who had been living in Scotland and is now back in the UK after bungled attempts to deport her.
She and her son were removed from their Glasgow home in a dawn raid, and later flown to Ivory Coast on a private jet, but were refused entry and returned to the UK.
Mr Wishart said:
“Fatou Gaye, and her young son, should never have been deported to the Ivory Coast – but they were detained and flown by private jet to Africa and then back here again when they were refused entry. This escapade alone has cost in excess of £70,000.
“Fatou and her four-year-old are now back in the UK and back in a detention centre, held there by a UK Government that has promised time and time again to end the practice of holding children in detention centres.
“Holding children in these prisons is inhumane at the best of times, but this boy, too young to have started school, is now serving his fourth term in a detention centre.”
Ms Gaye and her son are being held at a Home Office facility in London while their case details are clarified.
A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said it did not comment on individual cases.
The use of private jets to deport immigrants will be questioned by the SNP Home Affairs spokesman after it emerged the cost of chartering aircraft had almost doubled in the last year to more than £8.2m.
In 2008-09 the UK Border Agency spent £26.8m on chartered and scheduled flights to remove immigrants at the taxpayers’ expense. A total of £81.5 million has been spent since 2005.
Mr Wishart plans to press the issue when the House of Commons debates the remaining stages of the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill in the coming week.
“These figures are shocking, and the UK Government must explain why the number of chartered flights has soared.
“Nobody would dispute there is a need for removals, but it is not clear why the Border Agency believes that chartering private jets is the best use of taxpayers’ money.”
The UKBA removes an illegal immigrant from the UK every eight minutes.
It is estimated that between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people are illegally in the UK of which around 440,000 are thought to be in London.
Leading think tank, ippr, said it would it would take at least 20 years to find and remove half a million illegal immigrants at a cost of over £5 billion, presumably based on using economy seats on commercial lights.
But if the UK Border Agency get into the habit of flying people in private jets, who knows what the cost will be.
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