BUNGLING Home Office bosses have no idea how many illegal immigrants there are in the UK, a damning report has found.
Border chiefs last estimated there were 430,000 people in Britain unlawfully back in 2005, the National Audit Office said.
But it has not done an assessment since and there could be around one million now, the spending watchdog said.
A dwindling number of illegal immigrants are voluntarily leaving Britain– down from 1,200 a month in 2015 to 460 a month last year.
In a blistering assessment, the NAO accused the Home Office of having no idea if its policies are actually discouraging illegal immigration or not.
Meg Hillier, Labour MP and boss of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The Home Office has no idea how many people are in the country illegally and doesn’t seem interested in finding out.
“It can’t demonstrate that its actions to control illegal immigration are working as intended, and doesn’t understand how different aspects of its work fit together.” During last year’s general election campaign Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to “reduce immigration overall”.
But despite collecting lots of data, the Home Office has no idea whether its policies are actually stopping people sneaking into the country, the NAO said.
‘Complex and challenging work’
The number of people spotted trying to smuggle themselves into Britain has rocketed from 40,800 in 2018 to 46,900 last year.
But the Home Office cannot say if this is down to more attempts being made overall or better detection, the report said.
The department is clueless about whether its measures to stop illegal immigrants accessing public funded services has “any meaningful impact on the likelihood that an individual will leave the UK voluntarily”, the report added.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “The work of Immigration Enforcement by its very nature is complex and challenging. While the Home Office has introduced significant changes to its enforcement activity, it cannot demonstrate that overall performance is improving.
“The Department needs a better understanding of the impact of its immigration enforcement activity on its overarching vision to reduce the size of the illegal population and the harm it causes.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We have taken back control of our immigration system and for the first time in a generation, we will have full control over who comes and stays here.
“As this report acknowledges, the nature of immigration crime and offending is complicated and we are consistently looking at ways to get ahead of the organised gangs behind it.
“We work tirelessly with international partners and agencies, such as the National Crime Agency, to tackle illegal migration, close down routes for people smuggling and return those with no right to remain in the UK wherever possible.
“We make no apology for seeking to deport foreign national offenders and since 2010 we have removed more than 53,000 criminals.”
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