MIGRATION Watch research estimates net illegal immigration to be running at about 70,000 per year; the gross inflow is 105,000 per year (see our paper), and that is in addition to the estimated million or so migrants already living here illegally. A proportion of this million is the result of only 40 per cent of those refused asylum since 2004 leaving the country as they should have done (an annual average of 5,400 out of an average 13,900 refusals per year). Meanwhile, the backlog of asylum applications still awaiting an initial decision after more than six months trebled between 2010 and 2017.

David Wood, a former Director General of Immigration Enforcement at the Home Office, revealed in a report published by the think tank Civitas earlier this year that removals of failed asylum seekers had fallen from more than 15,000 per year 14/15 years ago to fewer than 5,000 in more recent years. In 2017, there were just 2,541 enforced removals and 2,301 voluntary departures.

The lamentable state of our asylum system and our ineffectual enforcement policies pose just as great a risk (perhaps greater) to the integrity of our borders as those risking their lives to cross the Channel in rubber dinghies, something the Home Secretary declared a major incident last December. Redirecting Border Force cutters may have made good theatre but it will do little to discourage determined people from poor and troubled lands from making their way to countries such as the UK if they know that weak enforcement policies will mean that once they set foot here they are likely, eventually, to be allowed to settle.

I should add that, according to Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, speaking to Dutch broadcaster NOS in January 2016 of the 120,0000 migrants who had arrived in the EU in December 2015 [to claim asylum] ‘60 per cent were from countries where you can assume they have no reason whatsoever to ask for refugee status’.

Not that the UK is not generous in giving refuge. According to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical arm, in 2017 the UK resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU member state (see the Government’s Immigration White Paper, p76). In total, the UK provides asylum or another form of protection and resettlement to between 10,000 and 20,000 refugees every year. Long may that continue.

However, failing to remove those with no right to be here, including failed asylum seekers, is an affront to the rule of law and if anything encourages people to risk their lives to get here by hook or by crook. How the 129 MPs who signed a pledge effectively to turn a blind eye to illegal immigration (see here) thought they were helping is difficult to comprehend. What is more, they did this while the Home Office’s internal estimate (according to David Wood – p4 of Civitas report) was that between 150,000 and 250,000 people with no right to be in the UK were failing to leave each year. The MPs were also acting against the express wishes of the great majority of the electorate, 77 per cent of whom see illegal immigration as a major problem facing the UK (2018 Project28 poll).

Instead of loosening controls (as only 8 per cent of the public wish to see, according to Ipsos MORI – see p7 of polling summary), the government should instead provide the asylum and immigration enforcement systems with the resources they need and in so doing show commitment to honouring their oft-repeated promise to reduce immigration by a lot, for which the majority of the public yearn.

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