The UK Border Agency removes an “immigration offender” every eight minutes according to official statistics published this week.
The recently formed agency, part of the Home Office, has confirmed that in the first three months of this year 3,025 failed asylum seekers, including dependants, were removed from the UK.
A further 13,740 illegal immigrants, excluding asylum seekers, were removed in the same period – up 20% on the same period last year.
The findings are based on quarterly asylum, accession monitoring and Bulgarian and Romanian statistics published 20 May 2008.
Removal is a form of deportation which makes it easier for the Home Office to expel a person from the UK.
Both the figures and the style of announcement demonstrate the Government’s determination to be seen as ‘tough’ on illegal immigration, with Labour staring down the barrel of an election defeat in two years.
The Home Office has removal targets, for instance for the removal of a “record 5,000 foreign national prisoners in 2008”, in much the same way as a company has sales targets.
The Government is also increasing the capacity of the “immigration detention estate” (detention centres) from 60% with between 1,300 and 1,500 spaces for immigration offenders.
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
“Today’s figures show our shake-up of border security is delivering results with asylum applications falling yet again. While in Europe last year asylum applications rose by 13 per cent, in the UK they fell to their lowest point since 1993.
“People in Britain welcome legal migrants who work hard and play by the rules. But we will not tolerate law breakers, which is why we will prioritise their expulsion from Britain. We are continuing to remove one person every eight minutes, last year that included a record number of foreign prisoners.
“Our deportation numbers are going up and they need to carry on rising. That’s why yesterday I announced plans for an increase in capacity of up to 60 per cent in the detention estate, with up to 1,500 extra spaces for immigration offenders.”
The Government is currently implementing sweeping changes to the immigration system, including a tough new Australian-style Points Based System, fingerprinting of any visa applicants and from November compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals.
Removing someone every eight minutes (or an average of 180 people a day) sounds impressive, but at this rate it will take nearly eight years to remove the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants and visa ‘overstayers’ residing in the UK, assuming the number remains static.
With immigration becoming such a political ‘hot potato’, none of the main political parties seems willing to have a sensible debate on how we are going to deal with this issue.