The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q4 2015) Contents

5Immigration Enforcement

The Migration Refusal Pool and curtailment of leave

72.Anyone whose temporary or permanent migration application is refused by UK Visas and Immigration or whose leave to remain has expired enters the Migration Refusal Pool (MRP). The MRP was set up in 2008. Asylum applications are excluded from it. It includes people who might have left the UK (but departure has not yet been confirmed) or secured a grant of leave in a different way (and records have not yet been linked to show this). Immigration Enforcement manages the MRP, and this forms a major part of its workload. Cases leave the pool as people are confirmed to have left the UK, are granted leave, or lodge an appeal or new application.

Chart 11: Size of Migration Refusal Pool at end of quarter

Chart showing size of migration refusal pool from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration enforcement transparency data, February 2016 (and previous data releases), Table Post_MRP_01

73.In September 2012, the Home Office contracted Capita to carry out a data cleansing operation on the Migration Refusal Pool. By the end of Q4 2015, Capita had assessed 460,900 records (122,000 in 2015). Of these, 243,000 had been passed back to the Home Office to progress for further casework, be that removal or confirmation that the individual had applied for another route to remain in the UK. 98,400 had been confirmed as having departed from the UK, and in 99,400 cases no contact could be made.66

Improved performance

Chart 12: Number of records in the pre-2008 Migration Refusal Pool

Chart showing number of records in the pre-2008 Migration Refusal Pool from the last quarter of 2013 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration enforcement transparency data, February 2016, Table Pre_MRP_01

74.An inspection of the curtailment process for Tier 4 visas by David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), found that cases were being entered into the Migration Refusal Pool unnecessarily.68 For example, cases in which leave had been curtailed but were still within a period of grace (to ‘wrap up’ their stay and depart) were being entered into the MRP and referred to Capita only for Capita to, correctly, bounce them back to the Home Office because there was a ‘barrier to removal’—namely that the student was still entitled to be in the UK. The ICIBI also found cases being entered into the MRP where Advance Passenger Information (API) showed that the individual had either already departed the UK or never arrived in the first place. As the ICIBI noted, in both cases this was wasted effort for all parties. In its response to his Report the Government agreed that both issues would be, or were being, addressed.69

75.The ICIBI also noted that Immigration Enforcement had no process for monitoring ‘curtailment not pursued’ (CNP) cases—ones which Immigration Enforcement had chosen not to pursue because either the student’s leave had already expired or the student had fewer than 60 days leave remaining at the time of the curtailment consideration, meaning that the Home Office expected these individuals either to have returned home or to have extended their leave in another category. He observed that:

Between 1 April [2014] and 31 March 2015, the Home Office made 71,601 CNP decisions. Many of these individuals may have departed the UK or have been granted leave to remain on other grounds. However, the true position, including the number and whereabouts of those who have remained in the UK illegally, is not known.70

We consider the issue of removing foreign national offenders separately at paragraph 89.

76.The Government has accepted the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration‘s recommendation to take the steps necessary to locate and identify those individuals amongst the more than 71,000 curtailment not pursued (CNP) cases who have remained in the UK illegally, with a view to effecting their removal. As with the process with Older Live Cases we expect statistics on progress in dealing with this issue to be published on a quarterly basis.

Immigration detention

77.Immigration detention is the practice of detaining asylum seekers and other migrants for administrative purposes, to enable their claim to be resolved, or their possible removal. In 2015, 32,446 people entered immigration detention, a 6% increase from 2014. 71

Table 20: Number of people entering immigration detention at the end of each quarter





Of whom were children

2014 Q1





2014 Q2





2014 Q3





2014 Q4





2015 Q1





2015 Q2





2015 Q3





2015 Q4





Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Detention data tables, dt_04q

Chart 13: Total entering detention

Chart showing total entering detention in total for years 2009 to 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table dt_05q

78.The proportion of all those who entered detention and who were then removed from the UK has gradually fallen from 63% in Q1 2010 to 44% in Q4 2015. Fewer than half of those people who enter immigration detention are removed from the UK.

Improved performance

Table 21: Numbers leaving detention and removed from country

Number leaving detention

Number Removed from the UK

% Removed from the UK

2014 Q1




2014 Q2




2014 Q3




2014 Q4




2015 Q1




2015 Q2




2015 Q3




2015 Q4




Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table dt_05q

79.In Q4 2015, it cost on average £91 per day to hold an individual in immigration detention.72 In addition to the cost of detention itself the Home Office also pays compensation to those people whom the courts find to have been held in detention unlawfully. A Freedom of Information request revealed that a total of £18 million has been paid in compensation over the last four years.

Table 22: Total paid in compensation to those unlawfully detained

Financial year

Total paid in compensation









Source: BBC News, Payments to wrongly held detainees top £4bn each year, 20 April 2016

Overall, the number of people in immigration detention has dropped from 3,460 at the end of 2014 to 2,607 by the end of 2015.

Table 23: Number of people in immigration detention at the end of the year




























Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table DT_13

The UK is the only country in Europe without a time limit on detention. Of those in detention at the end of 2015, 1,635 individuals had been in detention for over 28 days, 81 people for over a year and 8 people for longer than two years. Current trends suggest that over half of these people will be released (see Table 21).

Table 24: People in detention by length of detention

Length of detention

End of 2013

End of 2014

End of 2015

3 days or less




4 to 7 days




8 to 14 days




15 to 28 days




29 days to less than 2 months




2 months to less than 3 months




3 months to less than 4 months




4 months to less than 6 months




6 months to less than 12 months




12 months to less than 18 months




18 months to less than 24 months




24 months to less than 36 months




36 months to less than 48 months




48 months or more








Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table DT_11_q

80.Immigration detention is costly, as is the compensation which has to be paid when detention is found to be unlawful. The adverse effects of detention on an individual’s mental health are also well-established. We support the recommendations of the independent reviewer, Stephen Shaw, that the Home Office should both do more to reduce the length of time that detainees are held and investigate alternatives to detention. Particular attention should be paid to those who are held in detention for the longest periods. We welcome the Government’s commitment to an independent case review after three months’ detention, and the new statutory automatic presumption of bail after four months’ detention. We will closely scrutinise the impact of these changes. We recommend that the Government publish a timetable for implementation, as well as a date for Stephen Shaw’s short follow-up review. We share Stephen Shaw’s view that further legal interventions, such as a statutory time limit on detention, will need to be considered if there has not been a significant impact on the length of detention.

Children in detention

81.The Government has committed to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. Although the number of children so detained has significantly reduced from a high of 1,119 children in 2009, the practice has not stopped entirely. In 2015, 128 children entered immigration detention.

Chart 14: Children entering detention by age

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table DT_02

82.The graph below shows how long children were detained. The graph provides data for children detained longer than three days. In 2015, 95 children were detained for less than three days. At the end of 2015 there were no children in immigration detention.

Chart 15: Children leaving immigration detention by length held, those over 3 days

Chart showing children leaving immigration detention by length (held 29 days or more, held 15 to 28 days, held 8 to 14 days, held 4 to 7 days) from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Improved performance

Pregnant women in detention

83.In February 2015, the Home Secretary asked Stephen Shaw, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, to conduct a review of the welfare of vulnerable people in detention. Stephen Shaw submitted his review in September 2015 and it was published by the Home Office in January 2016. The review included a list of categories of people who should be presumed unsuitable for detention, such as those suffering serious mental illness, and an absolute exclusion from detention for pregnant women. When the Minister for Immigration came before us in February 2016 he was unable to provide an assurance that the Home Office would accept Mr Shaw’s recommendation on excluding pregnant women from detention.

84.On 18 April 2016 the Government announced that, although it would retain the right to detain pregnant women, it planned to end their routine detention and detention would be limited to 72 hours, extendable to up to a week with Ministerial authorisation. The Government offers the following explanation for not fully meeting Stephen Shaw’s recommendation:

We need to ensure that we are able to effectively manage returns for those who do not depart voluntarily. This new safeguard will ensure that detention for pregnant women will be used as a last resort and for very short periods—for example: immediately prior to a managed return; to prevent illegal entry at the border where a return can be arranged quickly, or if a pregnant woman presents a public risk.74

85.The Government’s decision to move some way towards the recommendation in the Shaw review to end the detention of pregnant women is welcome. However, it falls short of the absolute exclusion recommended by Stephen Shaw. We expect any future instances of pregnant women being detained to be a last resort; and the occurrences and length and circumstances of detention must be recorded in future data releases so that we can properly assess whether the new safeguards are being adhered to in practice.

Rule 35 reports

86.Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules is intended to be a key safeguard in ensuring that vulnerability in detention is identified. It states that medical practitioners are required to report to the Home Office any detainee whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by detention, and any detainee they are concerned may be a victim of torture. The chart below shows the number of Rule 35 Reports made to the Department since the beginning of 2012 and the number of people released from detention as a result.

Chart 16: Rule 35 reports

Chart showing Rule 35 reports (reports made, reporst resulting in release) from the firts quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Table 25: People released as a result of Rule 35 reports

Rule 35 Reports made

People released as a result of Rule 35 Reports

















Source: Home Office Immigration Enforcement Transparency Data, Table DT_03

87.There were substantially more Rule 35 Reports in 2015 than in previous years. The number and proportion of people released as a result of a Rule 35 Report has also increased from 12% (93) in 2012 to 21% (430) in 2015.

Improved performance

88.We welcome the increase in the number of people who are considered unfit for detention being released. However, it is disappointing that a large majority of detainees subject to Rule 35 Reports remain in detention. Stephen Shaw’s independent review observed that such a high level of rejection showed that the system designed to safeguard the welfare of vulnerable people was failing and recommended that an alternative be immediately considered. The Government has committed to addressing this with a new ‘adult at risk’ policy. We look forward to seeing the details of the new policy, but in the meantime the Government must do more to provide protection for vulnerable people, including seeking alternatives to detention.

Foreign national offenders (FNOs)

89.The Government has said it wishes to deport as many Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) as possible to their home countries. In 2013, the Government produced an Action Plan on FNOs with the aims of increasing removals from 4,600 to 5,600 a year over the following three years, and reducing the number of FNOs in the UK by 2,000 over the same period. In 2015, provisional data show that 5,602 FNOs were removed, a 6% increase on the previous year (5,286). This number has been steadily increasing since the year ending March 2013 (4,720) and is now the highest number since the series began in 2009.75 The data also shows:

Improved performance

Worse performance

Chart 17: Ex-FNOs living in the community by time since release

Chart showing Ex-FNOs living in the community by time since release (data quality issues, more than 60 months, more than 24 months, less than 24 months, less than 12 months, less than 6 months) from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016

90.In evidence to the Liaison Committee in May the Prime Minister accepted that the Government should have done better at removing foreign national prisoners and offenders. The Prime Minister explained that he has “six-monthly National Security Council meetings on foreign national offenders and foreign national prisoners to try to speed up their exit from the UK. It is fantastically difficult, even when you have signed prisoner transfer agreements.”78 Common barriers to deportation include a lack of travel documentation, asylum claims, and further legal representation.

91.The Committee agrees with the Prime Minister that the Government ‘should have done better’ in deporting foreign national offenders from EU countries. The failure to remove these individuals from the UK has been disappointing, and undermines confidence in the immigration system. Whilst there has been a slight improvement in the numbers being deported per year, progress has been too slow and the number of foreign national offenders currently in the United Kingdom is over 13,000, the size of a small town. The Home Office must set out the practical steps it intends to take to significantly reduce this figure. If it fails to do so we will begin setting targets to be monitored in future reports.

92.It is deeply concerning that there are 5,789 FNOs living in the community, the highest number since 2012. Over half of these have been living in the community for more than two years. This is unacceptable, and the Government should set out how many individuals are in the community whom they have decided to keep in the UK, and how many they would seek to deport.

93.There are too many Foreign National Offenders from European Union countries still in the United Kingdom. The public is entitled to expect a more efficient process for prisoner transfers and removals between Member States. It is surprising that of the predominant foreign nationalities in UK prisons, the top three are from EU countries: 983 from Poland, 764 from Ireland, and 635 from Romania. The Home Office has failed to tackle this issue sufficiently, as EU prisoners should be the first to be removed and accepted by their countries of origin. In her evidence to the Committee, the Home Secretary was unconvincing in suggesting that remaining a member of the EU will make it easier to remove these individuals from the UK. The clear inefficiencies demonstrated by this process will lead the public to question the point of the UK remaining a member of the EU.

Voluntary removals

94.Immigration Enforcement run a Voluntary Removal Service to facilitate removals from the UK for people who wish to find a way back to their country of birth. They offer surgeries in religious centres where people can seek advice without fear of being arrested.

95.In response to this Report we request that the Home Office provides an update on the Voluntary Removal Service operated by Immigration Enforcement.

66 Home Office, Immigration enforcement transparency data, February 2016, Post MRP_03

67 Home Office, Immigration enforcement transparency data, February 2016, Table Post MRP_03

68 Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, A Short Notice Inspection of the Tier 4 Curtailment Process July – September 2015, 23 March 2016

70 Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, A Short Notice Inspection of the Tier 4 Curtailment Process July – September 2015, 23 March 2016

71 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table DT_04q

72 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table DT_02

73 Home Office, Immigration statistics, February 2016, Table DT_09q

74 Written Statement, 8 April 2016, HCWS679

75 Home Office, Migration statistics, February 2016, Table RV_07_q

76 UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration enforcement data, February 2016, Table FNO_03

77 UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration enforcement data, February 2016, FNO_10

78 Oral evidence taken by the Liaison Committee, HC (2015–16) 956, Q66

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27 May 2016