A report issued on Wednesday by the UK National Audit Office revealed that the policy followed by the Home Office is yet to show effectiveness in persuading people suspected of illegally entering the UK to leave the country voluntarily.
“The department acknowledges that it had no specific evidence base to support the effectiveness of these measures when they were introduced. It is currently unable to measure whether these activities have the desired effect of encouraging people to leave voluntarily,” the report said.
Auditors said that the Home Office has not updated its estimate on the numbers of illegal migrants since 2005. The report also showed that two-thirds of immigration enforcement detainees are usually being released instead of being removed from the country.
The size of the illegal population in the UK was estimated at 430,000 people in 2005. Instead, the Home Office estimate the yearly demand for immigration enforcement activity by 240,000 and 320,000 cases, the auditors highlighted.
“We have not seen evidence it has tried to actively understand and manage these challenges and it has no strategy across the work of Immigration Enforcement and the rest of the Department to reduce their frequency,” the auditors said in the report. “In the 12 months to the end of December 2019 it released 14,900 (62%) of the detainees whom it intended to remove from the country”.
The National Audit Office’s report reportedly follows an announcement of the launch of legal action by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to look into the compliance of the Home Office with the equality law when implementing the “hostile environment” policy, an alternative for the “hostile environment” that led to the Windrush scandal.
The new policy is aimed to force illegal residents to leave the UK voluntarily through limiting them access to work, housing, benefits and other government-funded services.
“The Home Office has no idea how many people are in the country illegally and doesn’t seem interested in finding out,” Meg Hillier, chair of the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said in response to the report, quoted by The Guardian. “It can’t demonstrate that its actions to control illegal immigration are working as intended, and doesn’t understand how different aspects of its work fit together”.
In 2018, the so-called Windrush scandal revealed that thousands of people had been wrongly detained, denied legal rights, and in some cases wrongly deported from the United Kingdom by the Home Office.