THE Liverpool bombing is yet another example of the government’s disastrous immigration and asylum failure.
Sunday’s explosion which injured a taxi driver and killed the suspect highlights the scandalous and sorry mess that is our overwhelmed and abused asylum system.
The bomber, Emad Al Swealmeen, is reported to have been a failed asylum claimant who had his first application rejected in 2015 but, for some inexplicable reason, was still in the UK six years later.
It’s a potent reminder of the fact that our borders are frankly uncontrolled. Nearly 34,000 people have crossed the Channel illegally in boats from France since the start of 2018. These unauthorised migrants cannot be properly vetted so may pose a real threat to public safety.
The worsening Channel boats crisis, which has seen triple the number of illegal arrivals so far this year compared with last, is an important embodiment of how our costly, bloated and inefficient asylum system is being overwhelmed with abuse and backlogs.
Ninety-eight per cent of those entering the UK via the deadly small boats route claim asylum, as do more than 90 per cent of those illegally hidden in the back of lorries.
As the Home Secretary noted recently, more than two in three of asylum claims by those entering by boat are not well-founded in the UK because they have passed through safe countries, often claiming asylum there, with many rejected, then trying their luck here.
The mounting number of illegal boat crossers form part of the Home Office’s total asylum caseload (including rejected applicants) that now tops 125,000.
Around two in three of applications are by those who enter the UK without permission, and nearly 230,000 claims have been rejected since 2004.
Migration Watch’s analysis suggests that 8,500 failed asylum seekers have remained in the country each year, totalling 144,000 since the mid-2000s.
Even if asylum claimants fail in their application, they are decreasingly likely to be made to leave. Home Office statistics show that annual asylum-related returns have plummeted from about 18,000 in 2005 to just 1,000 in the most recent year.
What are the reasons for this?
David Wood, a former director-general of immigration enforcement at the Home Office, explained a few years ago: ‘In reality the longer they stay the more difficult it is to remove them as they get married, have children and build roots in the UK. They then can make further claims to stay on the basis of the right to family life.
‘The normal rule we worked on was once immigrants had been here for ten years you could not remove them and they would successfully apply for indefinite leave to remain. You will not find anything written down but that was generally the reality. The number of removals has fallen off a cliff. Resources for immigration enforcement have dwindled and you would need a lot more cash and manpower to be able to boost the numbers.’
It may be recalled that in June 2020 three men were stabbed to death in daylight in a park in Reading. The perpetrator, 25-year-old Khairi Saadallah, had been was given permission to stay here after claiming asylum in 2012, after having been a member of Ansar al-Sharia, a group now banned in the UK. Saadallah reportedly stated falsely in his asylum application that he was not involved in combat and, in 2018, was given five years’ permission to stay.
After the Reading murders, the public and a few in the media asked why Saadallah had still been in the UK despite having been convicted of 15 offences between 2015 and 2019, eight of which were violent crimes, two involved possession of a knife and two involved racially or religiously aggravated harassment.
We have to ask the same question now, especially given that Al Swealmeen was reportedly arrested for possession of a ‘large knife’ after rejection of his first asylum claim in 2014, resulting in his being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Why was he still here? Why did the government not err on the side of caution and put the safety of the public first?
It will be very difficult to tackle this problem unless the government is prepared to act boldly and reform some of the most absurd ‘human rights’ provisions which make increasingly difficult to remove even violent thugs. Areas that need to be looked at include the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention.
Another problem is the rule which allows failed asylum claimants to make repeated applications, something known as ‘further submissions’. Indeed, there are reports that Al Swealmeen claimed asylum a second time after converting to Christianity in 2017.
In 2016 a Liverpool clergyman, Mohammad Eghtedarian, said ‘plenty of people’ were pretending to convert, and added: ‘There are many people abusing the system – I’m not ashamed of saying that. People are desperate for a better life and sometimes they will lie for it – that’s understandable.’
A total of 7,300 ‘further submissions’ (new asylum applications by previously rejected claimants) were made in 2020. Such a loophole invites abuse and adds to the huge backlogs, while encouraging people who have already been rejected to remain here instead of departing as they should, not to speak of the money wasted, nor of other routes to ‘regularisation’ which thousands use each year.
There are measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before Parliament which appear aimed at restoring some form of the detained fast-track appeal system which was in place in the UK until 2015 but which was discontinued due to court rulings.
These provisions should be enacted as quickly possible and also strengthened in order to ensure that there is a failsafe mechanism which ensure those who the government knows to be a potential risk to safety can be detained until being removed.
A very large increase in the immigration enforcement budget – which has seen a cut of £40million in its gross spending since 2018 – will also be necessary, as will a large boost in the number of staff dedicated to this task, alongside more support and training and better conditions for the courageous, hardworking personnel who carry out this difficult work.
Footnote: The Telegraph reports today that Al Swealmeen was seen at his local mosque ‘all day every day’ during Ramadan in April, around the time he began constructing his bomb.