The illegal immigrant population of the UK is rising by 70,000 per year – nearly equivalent to the size of the full-time British Army. That is the conclusion of a new paper (Illegal immigration – What can be done?) being issued by Migration Watch UK.
The paper estimates the gross annual rise in the illegal immigrant population to be 105,000 per year while only about a third (or 35,200) of this annual total is either being removed or is departing voluntarily each year. Hence a net rise of 70,000 people per year, or 700,000 over the course of a decade.
Meanwhile, the controversy arising from the Windrush Affair has masked the continued and serious failure of the authorities to remove hundreds of thousands of people who have no right to be here.
Effective removal mechanisms are essential to the credibility of border controls. Over three-quarters – 77% – of the public consider illegal immigration to be a serious problem facing the country.
The best estimates, including two by former senior Home Office officials, suggest that there may be over one million illegal immigrants in the UK – equivalent to the population of Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city.
Previous commentary on the scale of overstaying has focused on Home Office analysis of Exit Checks. However, what has not been noticed is that the Exit Checks analysis published last month only covered 1.72 million non-EEA nationals whose visas expired in 2017/18. It did not cover millions of non-visa nationals who were admitted to the UK for a visit of six months, nor hundreds of thousands of visa nationals who obtained longer-term visit visas.
Our estimate of the number of people who overstay their visas stands at 83,600 per year. Added to more than 12,800 detected clandestine entrants and an annual average 8,500 failed asylum seekers who do not depart, that gives a gross figure of 105,000 more illegal migrants each year.
At the same time, removals and departures have averaged 35,200 since 2009 (excluding returns of foreign criminals). Removals of failed asylum seekers nosedived from 2005 onwards, from 16,000 to just over 5,000 in 2017. Over the last 14 years, less than half of those whose asylum claims were refused have departed the country. Meanwhile, returns of immigration offenders have dropped by a third since 2013. This decline in removals is troubling.
Illegal immigration to the UK is a major public concern. Yet the situation is considerably worse than the government admits and very little is being done about it.
Furthermore, a number of those who have remained have been able to regularise their status as a result of routes that allow those here illegally to stay on. These routes should be closed because they encourage the flouting of the law and are grossly unfair to those who take the care and time to follow the rules.
The paper points to the lack of resources and manpower available to the Home Office, to a long list of entirely sensible recommendations by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (some of which the HO has rejected) and to the need to be firm with countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Brazil when it comes to the return of their own citizens.
In addition, Exit Checks, which have cost taxpayers over £800 million, should be focused on the need to identify sources of illegal immigration. The issue of ID cards should also be revisited. A full list of recommendations is at paragraph 53 of the paper.
Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “The scale of illegal immigration to Britain is a scandal that has gone on for too long. It undermines public acceptance of genuine refugees and is damaging to community relations generally. The government must not cave in to opposition attempts to ‘weaponise’ Windrush against legitimate and effective measures to tackle overstaying. These measures are supported by nearly 80% of the public, and rightly so.”
Note to Editors
The size of UK regular forces in the British Army was 79,900 on 1 July 2018, Ministry of Defence quarterly statistics.