37,000 Migrants Lost After Skipping Bail or Fleeing Detention Centres

DEAL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Migrants make their way inland after landing on Deal beach after crossing the English channel from France in a dinghy on September 14, 2020 in Deal, England. More than 1,468 migrants, some of them children, crossed the English Channel by small boat in August, despite …
Luke Dray/Getty Images

The British government has lost track of over 37,000 migrants after they skipped bail or absconded from detention centres, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Home Office figures revealed that the majority of the migrants are classified as “in-country absconders” after having failed to report to immigration officials or simply escaped from detention centres. An estimated 134 are categorised as “port absconders”, meaning that they evaded border controls in order to enter the UK.

The figures showed that in total, 37,302 foreign nationals have gone unaccounted for over the past three decades until the end of September this year, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The Home Office failures mean that a group of migrants equivalent to the entire population of British towns such as Redcar in North Yorkshire or Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire is now missing.

In response to the figures, Migration Watch Chairman Alp Mehmet 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.

“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.”

The data release comes as eight supposed asylum-seekers disappeared from the makeshift migrant camp at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, last week.

The barracks were converted in September to house some 400 migrants as the system was overwhelmed by record numbers of illegal boat migrants pouring across the English Channel, with nearly 9,000 illegal landings recorded since the beginning of the year.

In November, footage shared on social media showed a gang of migrants in the camp attempting to break down the base’s barricades.

While the migrants are not required by law to remain in the detention centre, they must inform immigration officials about their whereabouts and their new home address.

The Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, said at the time: “I’m extremely concerned that since September eight asylum seekers have disappeared from the barracks, their current location unknown and their applications presumably suspended.

“The number of asylum seekers that have already left the camp raises serious questions about the security of the Napier Barracks facility.”

Responding to the 37,000 missing migrants, 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,” the spokesman went on.

A July report from the National Audit Office revealed that the government does not have a clear picture of the total number of illegal aliens residing in the country, with estimates claiming that as many as 1.2 million illegals may be loose in the UK.

In response to the report, Meg Hillier of the Public Accounts Committee said: “The Home Office has no idea how many people are in the country illegally and doesn’t seem interested in finding out.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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