Much excitement on the BBC’s Today programme and elsewhere in the media about “a document that emerged overnight” which proves that the Home Office sets targets for removing people who have no right to remain in the UK. This matters because yesterday the Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, and a top civil servant told MPs that they were not aware of any such targets.
The document showing otherwise is not exactly a secret. Some outlets do not provide a hyperlink to it, with the result that the reader may think that the journalists have unearthed it through some diligent feat of sleuthing. In fact it is one of the immigration inspector’s publicly available reports. These have been covered on Free Movement since 2009.
Are there targets for removal of illegal immigrants? Culture Secretary @MattHancock says: "It has never been Home Office policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet a target."
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) April 26, 2018
David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, carried out an Inspection of Removals between October 2014 and March 2015. References to targets include, at paragraph 4.8:
Refugee Action’s 2014/15 target for [Assisted Voluntary Returns] was set at 2,200, which was broadly in line with the number of non-detained returns achieved in 2013/14. However, both Home Office managers and Refugee Action told us that performance in 2014/15 was likely to fall short of this target. We were subsequently informed by the Home Office that the number of returns via AVR in 2014/15 totalled 1,820.
And at paragraph 4.16:
For 2014/15 (10 full months) the Home Office set a target of 7,200 Voluntary Departures, an average of 120 per week, with the weekly target rising to 160 by the end of March 2015. For 2015/16, the annual target was raised to 12,000. These targets were split between the 19 ICE teams across the UK.
Also paragraph 4.77:
The [Family Returns Process]’s target for the financial year 2014/15 was 252 returns. By February 2015, it had already achieved 535…
Immigration is one area where Home Sec has hands on the levers. Either Amber Rudd doesn’t know what’s going on or she scrapped the targets
— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) April 26, 2018
Targets or otherwise, the number of people sent back to their home country has been falling. Total enforced returns have dropped steadily year on year, from 14,000 in 2014 to 12,000 last year. The voluntary returns referred to above — where people co-operate with the process — have fallen away even more steeply, from around 26,000 in 2014 to 19,000 in 2017.
This chart is based on the historical definition of enforced and voluntary departures because the Home Office changed the definition in 2014 in the quarterly statistics. You get the picture: enforced and voluntary departures are both falling. The source is table Rt_01.