Memorandum submitted by Beverley Hughes
MP, Minister of State, Home Office
At the Home Secretary's Annual evidence session
before your committee on 11 September, it was agreed to write
to you on a number of issues with further information resolved
at the time. I thought it would be useful to respond on these
issues before my attendance at the Committee on 21 October. A
full consolidated response will follow in the normal way after
At the start of the meeting I undertook to write
to Ann Widdecombe regarding the alleged break out of asylum detainees
from the Immigration Removal Centre in Dover.
Seven detainees sought to escape from the IRC
on the evening of 4 September. One potential escapee was apprehended
but unfortunately six others, all of whom were at various stages
of the asylum process, managed to escape.
As I said at the meeting, the Home Secretary
and I routinely receive reports of any incidents in the detention
estate. Our offices were advised of this incident by telephone
within hours of its occurrence and, in writing, the following
day. An announcement was not made because it was not considered
either necessary or appropriate to do so. That is not to say that
the incident was not of concern however, and the Immigration Service
are now carrying out an investigation in conjunction with the
Prison Service to see what lessons can be learned.
Although the Daily Express article of
11 September was correct to say that an escape occurred, it was
seriously flawed in other respects. It was incorrect to assert
that the police were powerless to act "because the absconders
had not committed a criminal offence before being locked up".
Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 makes it a criminal offence
to enter or remain in the United Kingdom without leave. Under
the same section, it is also an offence to fail to observe any
restriction imposed as to residence. Furthermore, Section 28A
of the 1971 Act states that ". . . a constable or immigration
officer may arrest without a warrant a person . . . who has committed
or attempted to commit an offence under Section 24 . . .".
None of the escapees have valid leave to enter or remain in the
United Kingdom, nor have they abided by the conditions of their
residence (namely that they reside at the removal centre). They
had, therefore, broken the law and were liable to arrest by either
a police constable or an immigration officer.
The article also contained a number of other
factual inaccuracies. There was no violent clash between the detainees
and the detention custody officers, nor was there a "mini-riot"
on 4 September. There is no perimeter fence or wall at Dover so
there can be no question of "fugitives climbing ropes thrown
over a wall". Rather, the centre is surrounded by a moat
and there is barbed wire near the top of the outer moat mall.
Six, not seven, detainees escaped from the centre; one detainee
was found in the moat by staff and returned to the centre. Finally,
the article claimed that the centre housed 350 asylum seekers.
It does not; it houses maximum 316 detainees, not all of whom
are asylum seekers.
You also asked questions regarding illegal working
in King's Lynn. Specifically you wanted to know how many removals
have taken place as a result of the action taken by police and
immigration officers to deal with the problem and how many businesses
had, or are being prosecuted as a result of the enforcement action
that had been taken.
The United Kingdom Immigration Service has carried
out a series of operations in the King's Lynn area over recent
months, and has visited a number of residential addresses and
a place of employment where it has interviewed a number of Chinese
As a result of the operations carried out so
far, the Immigration Service had interviewed a total of 63 Chinese
nationals. Thirty-three of these nationals were subsequently served
with illegal entry papers and have now claimed asylum. Sixteen
were asylum seekers whose claims have yet to be decided, four
were failed asylum seekers and the remaining 10 had committed
a variety of immigration offences. To date one of these Chinese
nationals who had committed an immigration offence has been removed
from the United Kingdom.
The ability to effect removals to the country
of origin is crucial in tackling illegal immigration. China is
one of the countries with which re-documentation issues make it
difficult to effect speedy removals. We have, however, had productive
discussions with the Chinese authorities. They have agreed to
increase their assistance in the identification and documentation
of Chinese nationals who have been refused asylum or are here
illegally, in order to facilitate their return. With regard to
prosecutions, no prosecution has been pursued against the place
of employment visited by the Immigration Service as the employer
fully co-operated with Immigration Officers throughout the process.
The Immigration Service is committed to prosecuting
employers who act outside the law in this respect and legislation
is currently being developed to make it an offence for trafficking
individuals to the United Kingdom for labour exploitation. This
will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permits. We are
also currently consulting on proposals to strengthen the types
of documents which employers must check in order to obtain a statutory
defence from prosecution under Section 8. Taken together these
new measures will provide the Immigration Service with more effective
powers to target and prosecute those employers who knowingly flout
the law and use illegal migrant labour.
16 October 2003