Labour sets out returns plan for failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals to fix Tory immigration chaos

Image via Reuters

Labour has promised to take immediate steps in government to swiftly and efficiently remove those with no right to be in the UK as part of a major overhaul, to restore some grip and credibility to the asylum and immigration system that has been broken under the Tories.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper pointed to the 40 per cent drop in the number of asylum removals since 2010, saying “the Tories have broken the immigration and asylum system. Tory ministers have completely lost control of the system and that has led to chaos, collapsing confidence and calamitous costs. Instead of all the gimmicks, they need to get a grip.”

Labour is making clear that firm, fair enforcement and control will be a central part of repairing the broken immigration and asylum systems – starting with increasing returns of those who have no right to be here, and a new fast track decision and return system for safe countries to help clear the backlog and cut the shocking £5 billion Tory Home Office overspend.

Labour has already pledged to surge through casework numbers to clear the Tory asylum backlog and end hotel use – ensuring those with no right to remain can be swiftly removed. Failure to clear hotels bust a £4 billion hole in the Home Office budget this year.

The party is now announcing details of a new 1,000-strong returns and enforcement unit to increase those removals, from failed asylum seekers through to foreign national offenders – funded through savings made from clearing the asylum backlog and ending hotel use, currently costing the British taxpayer £8 million a day.

Labour’s Returns and Enforcement Unit will:

*Expedite case progression on removals of those with no right to remain and fix the processing gaps identified by the Chief Inspector of Borders
*Include officers posted to foreign countries to negotiate more returns agreements, allowing the UK to return people back to their safe country of origin
*Work to identify, shut down and penalise workplaces that are illegally employing and exploiting asylum seekers, particularly looking at the practice of recruiting from asylum hotels, and co-operate with the police on arresting those responsible for the trafficking of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from hotels.

The Returns and Enforcement Unit will be required to provide a weekly update on progress on removals for the Home Secretary, and will be backed with a new fast track asylum casework system for safe countries so those arrivals can be processed and returned within a matter of weeks.

Labour has previously pledged an additional £35 million to set up ‘Nightingale Courts’ to fast-track appeals from those seeking asylum to ensure removals cannot be delayed by long-running court delays.

Labour believes that the failure to enforce the current asylum system is leading to greater chaos and playing into the hands of criminal gangs who organise people smuggling into the UK.

Although Rishi Sunak promised to end asylum hotels over a year ago, 46,000 people are still in hotels – just seven fewer people than when he made the pledge, despite the Home Office spending £340 million on a “strategy to end hotel use”.

Due to the failure of the Rwanda scheme, the government’s latest plan is to pay migrants to voluntarily relocate to the country – at a possible cost of up to £2 million per person. This compares to an estimated cost of £1,000 a standard voluntary return, or £15,000 for an enforced return (on latest available figures). It means the latest Rwanda gimmick will cost over a hundred times more per person than normal relocations and returns.

Since 2010, the Tories have overseen:

*Enforced returns falling by 54 per cent
*Voluntary returns falling by 40 per cent
*Foreign National Offender returns falling by more than a quarter (27 per cent)
*Returns of failed asylum seekers falling by 44 per cent
*Returns of visa overstayers falling by 44 per cent.

In June 2023, the former Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration said of the Home Office working to remove foreign national offenders: “this is no way to run a government department”.

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The Conservatives have totally lost their grip on our borders and let our asylum system descend into chaos.

“Without firm, fair enforcement of the rules, the system ends up in chaos, costs soar, confidence collapses and exploitation grows. The 40 per cent drop in returns of failed asylum cases since 2010 undermines the credibility of the entire system. That’s why Labour will set up a new returns and enforcement unit to speed up the system and make sure rules are respected.”