Four out of ten deportations of illegal immigrants and foreign criminals from the UK were cancelled in 2014-15, largely because there were not enough staff available to take them to the airport.
Almost 34,000 airline tickets had to be cancelled in one 18-month period, costing British taxpayers more than £1.4 million, a report by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration has revealed.
A separate report suggests officials have lost track of thousands of foreign students whose visas have expired, the BBC reports.
The first report explains that a “major constraint” on the deportation process was a lack of security staff to accompany detainees out of the country.
The shocking failures occurred after the Home Office outsourced some of its border and immigration functions to private contractors. The report slammed the private firms as slow to resolve issues and reach agreement on areas for improvement.
The government, meanwhile, tried to absolve itself of responsibility by claiming it had no control over the firms, which were being paid by the taxpayer.
The report said: “The Home Office regarded some of the reasons for failed removals to be ‘out of [its] control’.
“While this might be true in individual cases at the point of removal, it was unclear what steps were being taken to identify lessons that might be applied by the Home Office and others to reduce ‘out of control’ failures.”
However, responding to the report, one of the private firms, Tascor, said it had no contractual requirement to complete removals within a specified timescale and also claimed not to be responsible because of legal challenges.
“The majority of the cancellations fall outside of Tascor’s control, largely due to legal challenges or lack of emergency travel documents,” the company said.
The Home Office has now accepted the report’s recommendations, saying they were looking for ways to reduce the cost of pre-departure accommodation at a unit for families subject to enforced removal.
An official response seen by PA said: “Work is already under way to address the recommendations relating to ticketing and escorting and, as the report acknowledges, these issues are being factored into the re-procurement exercise for both contracts which began in 2015.”