Thousands of immigration offenders are being allowed to escape deportation every year, according to Government figures revealed in a Daily Mail report.
Fewer than one in five of those who claimed asylum only after they were caught living here without permission have been deported or removed.
In fact, more are being given permission to stay than are being removed.
In the past three years, only 7,294 of the 40,000 who claimed asylum after being caught breaking immigration rules were kicked out, compared with 9,869 – one in four – who were told they could stay. The remainder have either yet to have their cases decided or have dropped out of the system.
Critics said the figures showed how the previous Labour government had turned Britain into a ‘soft touch’ for illegal immigrants.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said: ‘These are astonishing figures.
‘These people entered illegally in the first place without bothering to claim asylum, so they can hardly be prime candidates.
‘Despite that, a quarter of them were granted some sort of protection.
‘Worse still, of all those detected, less than one in five have actually been removed. No wonder Britain is considered a soft touch and people are queuing in Calais to get here.’
The Home Office figures, obtained by Tory MP Priti Patel, detail what happens to people who are caught living in Britain illegally.
They can be caught trying to enter the country in the back of lorries, or using other clandestine methods. Alternatively, they may have entered legally then overstayed their visas.
Both categories are entitled to claim asylum when they are picked up by the authorities. However, the UK Border Agency is instructed to take a dim view of anybody caught in these circumstances.
Normally, there is a suspicion that anybody who does not claim asylum within a short time of entering the country may not be a genuine refugee.
One of the difficulties faced by the UK Border Agency is having enough staff to track down failed asylum seekers once they have been ordered to leave.
Staff are told to prioritise those who pose the greatest danger to the public. That means foreign criminals are at the front of the queue.
The UKBA is preparing to axe 5,000 jobs over the next four years. This has led to concerns there will be even fewer staff dedicated to asylum removals.
In a blistering report published last February, the Parliamentary ombudsman laid the blame at the door of the last government.
Ann Abraham said Labour was a ‘very long way’ from running a fast and fair immigration system that deports foreigners with no right to live here.
She found delays and incompetence at almost every level of the asylum and immigration process – with backlogs running to hundreds of thousands of cases.
The ombudsman warned the situation is such a shambles that illegal immigrants could soon benefit from an obscure rule which says those who avoid removal for 14 years can apply to stay here permanently.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘We have known for some time that the asylum system used to be chaotic and has been recovering slowly, and are committed to ensuring asylum cases are concluded faster, at lower cost, and that we continue to improve the quality of our decision-making.
‘Throughout 2011 we will be introducing extra controls to affect every immigration route.
‘We will exert steady downward pressure on immigration numbers through the course of this Parliament with the aim of reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.’
Nine years to deport a sex Chinese offender
Last week a judge expressed astonishment that a failed asylum seeker from China had managed to evade the authorities for nine years.
Li Ding was found guilty by St Albans Crown Court of possessing extreme pornography, which he hoped to sell.
But Judge Andrew Bright QC said he had been shocked to discover that Ding had been brought before his court nine years after first being refused permission to stay in the UK in 2002.
The judge said: ‘What has been going on for nine years? He has no right to be here or to work here.’
He added: ‘It’s not a satisfactory state of affairs for either him or this country.’
The court had heard how Ding, who has been living in the Varley Parade area of north-west London, made a living selling counterfeit DVDs, including pornography.
The offensive material had been found by police when they stopped him in a car in Radlett, Hertfordshire, on September 17 last year.
He was unanimously convicted by a jury of possessing extreme pornography.
He had earlier admitted possessing criminal property.
The judge said: ‘I am baffled how you could be refused political asylum in 2002 and still be here in 2011.
‘The fact is you have been here illegally for a good number of years now.’
Passing sentence, Judge Bright told Ding he had been found guilty of a particularly unpleasant offence. Referring to the pornographic DVDs, he told Ding: ‘You were willing to sell them to whoever was willing to buy them.
‘There was a good chance that they would have fallen into the hands of children who would have been corrupted at the very sight of those images.’
The judge said it was an aggravating feature that, when found with the material, Ding had admitted intending to sell them.
Sentencing Ding to 16 months in jail, Judge Bright told Ding that his continued presence in this country was ‘not conducive to public good’.
He will now be automatically considered for deportation when he has served his sentence but the final decision will be for the UK Border Agency. Source: Daily Mail.
The problem with reports like this, daily fodder for the Mail, is that they harden the public’s attitude to any kind of immigration, even if it is legal and good for the country. Skilled migrant workers and international students add billions of pounds to the UK’s economy and help create jobs, yet they are too often tarred with the same ‘there’s too many immigrants’ brush.
The influential think tank, ippr, forecast that it will take 20 years and £5 billion to remove the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants already in the UK.
The system is fraught with difficulties. Even when the UK Border Agency attempts to deport an illegal immigrant they are often overruled by judges. In a landmark case earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that an illegal immigrant from Tanzania, who made false claims for asylum, has the right to stay in the UK because her two children were born in Britain.
Finding and removing illegal immigrants and overstayers is costly and problematic. It is far easier to attack softer targets such as students, cap skilled workers or cancel the visas of legal migrants. After all they came here legally and are far more likely to leave of their own accord.
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