The Home Office is providing generous packages including flights home, money to start businesses, and even amnesty from arrest for illegal migrants if they promise to attend repatriation meetings.
Appearing on a spiritual guru’s television show called Spiritual Live, Richard Lederle, leader of the South-East England immigration compliance and enforcement team, advertised the Home Office’s new programme, the Mail on Sunday reported.
The Voluntary Returns Service is aimed at failed asylum seekers, foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas, and migrants who have illegally entered the country. The “tailored packages” being offered include paying for flights, assistance finding schools for their children, work placements, and even money to start up businesses in the migrants’ home countries.
The scheme also includes amnesty from arrest if they attend meetings to discuss their return. Mr. Lederle told host guru Shri Raj Rajeshwar Guruji: “You can talk face-to-face without fear of being arrested. Let’s be absolutely clear on that point, if they are willing to turn up to those surgeries, they will not be arrested.”
Furthermore, the team operating under UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office, are promising that anyone who leaves voluntarily could be allowed back into the UK in as little as two years (whereas those who are forcibly deported are banned from returning for a decade).
Critics of the programme have said that the pay-offs are effectively signalling to illegal migrants that it is okay to be in Britain illegally. Conservative backbencher Andrew Bridgen said of the scheme: “This looks like a bribe for people who have already committed a criminal act by being here illegally. And it could act as an incentive for more people to come illegally.”
The Home Office has been paying illegal migrants to leave Britain since 1999, with each illegal getting up to £2,000. However, the latest figures show the numbers taking up paid repatriation have fallen, from a high of 6,200 in 2006 to just 1,635 last year.
In one year, £8.8 million was spent on encouraging illegals to return to their country of origin, which included £2.1 million on flights, £37,000 on travel documents, and the rest going on funding the migrants’ new lives back home.
With an estimated one million illegal migrants living in London alone, an asylum judge has stated that the government does not have the resources to find and deport them all.
A Home Office spokesman said the new system aims to save £5 million a year, adding: “Enforced returns cost the taxpayer several thousand pounds. Helping those depart voluntarily costs much less.”
In 2013 the Home Office attempted to encourage illegals to return home by driving a van around London bearing the message: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.” A review later found that only 11 people had left as a direct result.