Asylum Removals a 'Miserable Failure' - despite £5M a day bill…

September 07, 2003

Less than one in five failed asylum seekers is being removed from Britain – even though the whole asylum process is costing taxpayers £5million a day.

The figures come from independent think tank Migrationwatch which is analysing the detail of last week’s asylum figures and has issued its interim findings.

‘It is correct that the numbers of asylum applications have been reduced – even though they are the highest of any industrialised country - but, as ever, when you dig beneath the spin you find this is only half the story,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch. ‘In the announcement last week little was made of the fact that the other key element in the asylum equation - removals - is still a miserable failure.

‘Without an effective removals policy that swiftly and humanely removes people with no right to be here much of the effort and cost of the process is simply money down the drain, and with it goes the trust of the British public in the entire asylum process.

‘The reality is that anyone who sets foot on British soil, however this may be achieved, has a nearly 90% chance of staying. This is despite a long and tortuous legal process costing around £500,000 a day,’ he said. ‘As always the British taxpayer ends up footing the bill.’

In practical terms this means that tens of thousands of people with no right to stay here do just that – and the numbers build steadily day by day.

Furthermore, he said, the figures for the first quarter of this year show that the government have been bumping up the number of removals by removing people from the new member countries of the European Union who, from next May, will have the right to live, work and draw benefits in Britain. They amounted to 595 out of total removed of 2,620.

‘What this means is that we are removing people at great cost – which looks good in the figures – but in a few months time they will simply be able to get on a plane or train and arrive here quite legally. Our estimate is that tens of thousands of people will take advantage of this opportunity every year,’ he said.

‘Despite the”success” claimed by the Government last week our research has shown that the system is still far from being on the road to recovery with no improvement in recent years in the proportion of failed asylum seekers removed – a key element in any properly managed asylum process.

‘The failure to address this fundamental issue brings the law into disrepute and casts doubt on the credibility of the entire asylum process,’ he said.

Background notes:
1. In the period 1997-2002 388,000 initial decisions have been made on asylum - 81,000 applicants have been granted asylum (either initially or on appeal) and a further 61,000 have been granted exceptional leave to remain (ELR) . This leaves 246,000 applicants who have been refused asylum but, during those 6 years, only 50,000 have been removed. (Source: Asylum Statistics 1997-2002).

2. We have calculated the removal rate for failed asylum seekers by comparing the number of removals with the number of cases where asylum applicants have been refused asylum in the previous year... We have counted those refused asylum as 25% of the numbers refused asylum and ELR at their initial hearing (historically this is the percentage who do not appeal against their decision) plus the number whose appeals have been dismissed. This methodology gives a removal rate of 27% in 2001 falling to19% in 2002 and falling further to 18% so far in 2003-i.e. less than 1 in 5 failed asylum seekers are removed.

3. The Home Office has provided limited data on removals in the first quarter of 2003 and the 595 cases apply to only three of the EU accession countries - Poland, Czech Republic and Lithuania. The total figure for EU accession country removals will therefore be higher than this. No breakdown by nationality was given for the 2nd quarter figures and no reason for this was provided.

4. The £5m a day cost of the asylum process comes from Home Office News Release 058/2003 which gave the estimated cost of asylum seekers in 2002 as £1.8 billion. The cost of legal aid is additional to this and was expected to be £150 million in 2002/3. The cost of the courts is also additional but the government have given no figure for this.

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