The enforced removal from the UK of individuals who have no legal right to remain is costly and complex. The Home Office therefore looks to encourage such individuals to leave the UK voluntarily, employing various incentives and reserving enforced removal for those cases where it has judged that voluntary departure will not work or is not appropriate.
Individuals opting for voluntary departure are able to have their return paid for at public expense, although this will extend the length of time before they may apply to re-enter the UK. Enforced removals result in a 10-year re-entry ban.
The Immigration Act 2014 contained a package of measures aimed at maximising voluntary returns through the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for individuals without the legal right to remain in the UK. New legislative measures included making it more difficult to open a bank account, to obtain rented accommodation and to apply for a driving licence.
This inspection found that there had been a significant increase in the number of individuals who had opted to depart voluntarily using the Home Office’s voluntary departure services. Advance passenger information (API) also identified an increased number of individuals with no right to remain departing without notifying the Home Office or availing themselves of such services, though the increase needs to be seen in the context of improved data collection.
Operationally, the inspection identified a disconnect between the work of the National Removals Command (NRC) and front-line enforcement teams, with at least some of the latter questioning the effectiveness of the NRC and arguing that enforced removals performance had deteriorated since it was created.
The NRC argued that performance had varied from team to team. Irrespective of these arguments, the NRC and enforcement teams needed to align themselves better, not least to ensure that enforcement operations were cost-effective, and to reduce instances where immigration offenders were detained but had to be released because there were no available detention beds (and, in a significant number of cases, then absconded).
The removal of families was yet more complex and created additional challenges. The Home Office had introduced Family Engagement Managers (FEM) to encourage and assist with family removals, particularly those families who were resistant to the idea of departing. However, the inspection found that FEMs were too often engaged in minor administrative tasks in support of families who had indicated an intention to depart voluntarily. This was not the best use of their specialist training or grade.
The report was sent to the Home Secretary on 22 October 2015.