Author: The Guardian
Last quarter of 2020 saw 322 people removed from the UK by charter flight, 10 times more than in 2019
The cost of removing people from the UK by charter flight during the last three months of 2020 was £13,354 per person – more than 100 times than the average cost of a ticket on a scheduled flight, and a 11.5% increase on the same period in the previous year.
A freedom of information response obtained by the organisation No-Deportations stated that between October and December 2020 the Home Office spent £4.3m deporting 322 people on 23 charter flights – which amounts to £13,354 per deportee.
Many of the 23 charter flights the Home Office used in that period had fewer than 10 passengers onboard, and some as few as five. The Home Office said the small numbers flying were due to last-minute legal challenges by deportees.
In the last three months of 2019 the cost of removal on a charter flight was equivalent to £11,975 per person.
The figures showed a tenfold increase in the number of people removed on charter flights, from 37 people in 2019 to 322 people in 2020, and a sixfold increase in the number of charter flights used, from four to 23.
There was also an increased use of charter flights to EU countries at the end of 2020 before the Brexit deadline. Under EU membership there was a mechanism to return asylum seekers to the first safe European country they passed through, but this returns scheme is no longer available to the government.
James Wilson, the acting director of the charity Detention Action, condemned the government spending on deportation charter flights. He said: “At a time of great economic and social crisis, Priti Patel is splashing out on private jets to deport a single person. Ministers and the British public will have serious concerns about her spending while other budgets and essential services are under enormous strain.”
The minister for immigration compliance and justice, Chris Philp, said: “We make absolutely no apologies for removing foreign criminals and those who have no right to remain in the UK. We have successfully removed 6,450 foreign national offenders since January 2019.
“Unfortunately, on a large number of charter flights last year we experienced a significant number of late legal claims. These types of claims are often unfounded or without merit, but have to be given full legal consideration and result in individuals being removed from flights at the last minute. The government is bringing forward a new plan for immigration that is fair but firm, which will stop the abuse of the system and expedite the removal of those who have no right to be here.”