UK deportations soar as Home Office scramble to tackle immigration ‘speeds up’
Suella Braverman announces new Illegal Migration Bill
More people migrated to the UK last year than ever before – numbers breaching 500,000 for the first time – despite control of the country’s borders tightening under Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s “ultimate aspiration” to cut net migration to below 100,000.
The vast majority of these arrivals do so lawfully and have a right to remain. For those who do not, the Home Office seeks to return to where they came from –and the UK is doing so at a rapidly increasing rate.
New Home Office data shows that returns came in at just under 40,000 in 2022. This tally may be far below the 60,000 of a decade ago, but marks a sharp uptick from the declining trend since 2015 and a surge back to pre-pandemic levels.
This overall figure is split into three main categories: enforced returns of people subject to deportation action because they are in the country illegally, voluntary returns of people liable for removal but who left by their own accord, and port returns of those denied entry at the border and who returned to their departure destination.
All three have been soaring over the past two years.
Enforced returns had been in decline for years since a 2012 peak, and dipped significantly when the country went through pandemic lockdowns. The Home Office deported 3,860 people last year – 39 percent more than the 2,780 forcibly removed in 2021.
Most immigration offenders, however, leave willingly when instructed to do so. A total of 10,710 people returned to their homeland voluntarily last year, accounting for 28 percent of all returns.
Over the long term, the Home Office attributes the fall in enforced and voluntary returns to “tighter screening of passengers prior to travel” and improvements in visa processing. The recent uptick accompanies the rise in small boat Channel crossings, which rose by 60 percent to hit just under 50,000 last year.
The vast majority (62 percent) of returns occur at ports or airports when regular travellers simply don’t have the right documentation to be allowed to enter the UK. The 23,378 count represents the highest number of port returns in over a decade.
The data strongly suggest this is owed to changing requirements for EU nationals trying to enter the UK. Before the Brexit withdrawal was formalised, in 2020 port returns of EU nationals accounted for only 17 percent of the total – in the year ending September 2022 they made up 61 percent.
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A Home Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are speeding up returns, stepping up enforcement and will bring forward new laws to restore fairness to our system and break the business model of the people smugglers who profit from putting lives at risk.
“In 2022, there were more than 14,500 enforced and voluntary returns of people from the UK, including 3,079 foreign national offenders.”
In 2022, 77 percent of all enforced returns were Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) – non-British citizens convicted of any criminal offence or convicted abroad for a serious offence.
Of the 3,079 total FNOs, 58 percent were EU nationals. The largest share, however, were from Albania – 837, or 27 percent of the total.
Last Wednesday, the UK concluded a prison transfer arrangement with the Mediterranean country that will allow 200 Albanian detainees to finish their sentences in their home country.
Albania was followed by Romania (665), Poland (290), Lithuania (258) and Vietnam (89).
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