More than 37,000 migrants have absconded in Britain – the equivalent of the entire town of Redcar.
Official figures show the Home Office cannot trace tens of thousands of people who have either skipped their
Last night, campaigners seized on the data, which was released under Freedom of Information laws, as proof that Britain’s immigration system is not being properly enforced.
Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: ‘This is a shocking failure. It is ridiculous to intercept those crossing the Channel illegally or after they emerge from the back of lorries, only to turn them loose to disappear into the undergrowth of the shadow economy.
Official figures show the Home Office cannot trace tens of thousands of people who have either skipped their immigration bail conditions or fled from detention centres
‘It simply makes it easy for potential absconders. This gap in immigration control can easily be plugged with more effective enforcement and better use of detention. If only the political will were there to do it.’
Some foreign citizens – including asylum seekers, those caught entering the UK unlawfully and those overstaying their visa – are meant to report regularly to immigration centres or police stations if there are potential grounds to deport them.
But the Home Office figures show 37,302 foreign nationals living in the UK had disappeared over the past three decades up to the end of September this year.
The vast majority were categorised as ‘in-country absconders’ who had either failed to keep in contact with officials or disappeared from detention centres. Some 134 were termed ‘port absconders’, which means they had managed to evade border controls without permission to enter the UK.
The total – equivalent to the population of towns the size of Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire or Redcar in North Yorkshire – is likely to be much higher because it does not include missing children and vulnerable adults.
The figures have emerged after eight asylum seekers recently went missing from Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, which was converted to house up to 400 migrants while their asylum claims were being processed.
Some foreign citizens – including asylum seekers, those caught entering the UK unlawfully and those overstaying their visa – are meant to report regularly to immigration centres or police stations if there are potential grounds to deport them. Pictured, migrants in the Channel
While migrants are not required to stay there by law, they must provide an address if they choose to live elsewhere. Since it opened, however, an average of two a week have absconded without giving alternative addresses.
Damian Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said he was extremely concerned by the situation.
Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: ‘While even one absconder is unacceptable, this is historic data that covers a period of over 30 years and many of these individuals have likely left the country.
‘We have a dedicated national absconder-tracing team working with the police, other Government agencies and commercial companies to track down and bring absconders back into contact with the Home Office.
‘We never give up trying to trace absconders and we have significantly improved the way we collect data on people leaving the UK in recent years.’