The Home Office will allow the majority of European Union (EU) migrants living in Britain to stay after Brexit, while the UK’s former borders chief says more than 170,000 migrants are likely to have entered the country illegally last year.
The decision to offer amnesty comes as the former head of the Border Agency has revealed the extent of Britain’s porous frontiers and said the Home Office lacks the resources to do anything about the million plus illegal migrants in the country.
A Home Office report has calculated that 80 per cent of EU nationals will be entitled to permanent residency in Britain by the time Britain officially leaves the bloc. To qualify for permanent residency, EU migrants must have lived in Britain for five years.
In a potentially controversial move, the department is set to grant amnesty to the 600,000 EU nationals who don’t qualify.
A senior source at the Home Office told the Telegraph: “The remaining people will, of course, be allowed to stay in the UK. That’s a given. We just need to work out exactly how we do it.”
While the government maintains it is still committed to reduce immigration to “the tens of thousands”, former borders chief Rob Whiteman has revealed illegal migration is out of control and very little is being done about it.
Noting that 84,000 illegal entrants were caught in the UK last year, Mr Whiteman said this figure was “at best” just half the number who managed to slip in.
He explained: “It is not unreasonable to assume that the number detected is only a proportion of the number trying. I would have thought the number caught is at best half.
“The border is porous beyond our main ports. Britain is incredibly close to the rest of Europe so people will gain entry into the country through little harbours, inlets and airfields which are often not covered routinely.
“If you have the money I suspect it’s easy to get into the UK. The agency has three cutters. Your chances of getting across the Channel are good. In Australia a great deal of the navy’s time is given over to border protection,” he added.
Mr Whiteman, who was chief executive of the UK Border Agency from 2011 to 2013, also disclosed that resources are used to target high-risk foreigners while other illegal immigrants are largely left alone.
Just 5,810 foreigners illegally in the UK were removed last year, while asylum claims — 77, 440 of which are currently in progress — are at their highest level since 2004.
Mr Whiteman stated: “The number of illegal migrants reaching the country is far greater than the rate at which we are deporting people.
“Either we have to put considerable new resources and policies into removal, including holding more people in detention, or accept there are a large number of people living in the country who are not allowed to live here but neither are they facing deportation.”
Working at the Home Office under Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Whiteman was forced to slash the £2 billion budget by a quarter.
“If the public is ever going to be reassured we have to talk about the fact that there is a large amount of illegal migration that is not being dealt with.
“Either the Home Office needs more staff or we accept the situation isn’t going away,” he said.