Nearly 80,000 foreign criminals go ‘under radar’ as checks bypassed during Covid

UK should make it ‘harder’ for illegal migrants says French MP

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With in-person checks cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the tracking of foreign criminals and illegal immigrants went out of control, a report by think tank Migration Watch UK has claimed.

Only 11,000 of the UK’s 80,000 foreign and immigration offenders — those deemed of highest risk — were contacted in person.

The report claimed: “The majority of individuals currently required to report are those whom the Home Office considers present the greatest potential risk of causing harm to UK society, often foreign national offenders with previous convictions in the UK.”

But David Neal, Migration Watch UK chief inspector, stressed that even in the case of these individuals “very little evidence” of “proactive questioning and recording of a significant change in a reportee’s personal circumstances” was found.

The sort of data staff failed to record, such as changes of address, is crucial in the event of reoffending.

The report quoted a Home Office staff member blaming measures introduced in 2018 to “automate” the system of reporting and to cut costs for the few details being collected.

Migration Watch UK warned the consequences of the “minimal” checks could be putting the UK public at risk of non-UK criminals who may re-offend.

Further, as The Telegraph’s Charles Hymas suggested, potential re-offenders could try to go “under the radar” of the Home Office while continuing to live among the country’s community.

Alp Mehmet, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “This inspection report finds that the Home Office has given up on keeping proper track of at least 70,000 immigration offenders.

“What is more worrying is that inspectors say many in the reporting population represent a great potential risk.

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“The Government’s claims to be getting immigration under control look increasingly absurd.

“It is time to revert to serious enforcement.”

Chief inspector David Neal said the “general proactive collection of information from the reportees was minimal”.

The report advised the Home Office to “revisit the purpose and scope of a reporting event to ensure information is proactively and routinely collected and recorded”.

The Home Office acknowledged “the behaviours witnessed at the counter were not entirely in line” with internal processes.

It said: “We will take steps to educate and remind staff of the correct procedures on new addresses, and the need to be aware of behaviours displayed by those reporting when protecting the safeguarding and vulnerabilities of those we deal with within the centres.”

It comes as the number of Channel migrants reaching the UK in small boats this year hit 20,000 last week – more than twice as many as last year’s total of 8,417.

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