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Secret payments: UK splashes cash to embassies for migrant deportation

Published time: May 22, 2014 10:36
Edited time: June 27, 2014 08:04
Reuters / Paul Hackett

Reuters / Paul Hackett

The UK Home Office is reportedly dolling out ‘secret’ payments to embassies to expedite the removal of illegal migrants from Britain.

The payments, which could amount to millions of pounds and do not appear in the department’s annual report, are used to purchase travel documents necessary to deport asylum seekers and other migrants from the country, the Guardian reports. Under British law, foreign nationals cannot be removed without travel documents.

Diplomatic sources from embassies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East told the Guardian how money had been offered in exchange for facilitating the acquisition of the necessary papers.

"I am under a lot of pressure from the Home Office to provide travel documents. I receive emails from officials about once every two days,” one diplomat from the embassy of an African nation told the paper.

"I know that some embassies do accept payments from the Home Office for providing travel documents, but we do not because we consider it to be improper to take money for this. Sometimes it takes us a long time to check out whether someone the Home Office wants to remove is actually from my country."

While the Home Office said it would not pay in excess of three-figure sums and the amount was embassy dependent, some diplomats told the paper they had been offered substantially more.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request from the Guardian regarding payments the Home Office made to the Nigerian embassy confirmed that the department has more detailed information on the money that’s been allocated, though they are unwilling to reveal it.

According to the department, revealing information, while providing more transparency, would also influence future dealings between the two countries.

Meanwhile, last week the Immigration Act 2014 came into law, “making way for a series of reforms which will ensure our immigration system is fairer to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tougher on those with no right to be here,” the government said in a statement.

The Immigration Act 2014 contains 77 clauses and “makes fundamental changes” intended to limit both the factors attracting illegal migrants to the UK and facilitating the removal of those staying illegally.

One controversial aspect of the bill requires all private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants so as to prevent illegals from accessing private accommodation.

The act will also cut down the number of appeals allowed in an immigration case from 17 to four, allowing authorities to “return certain harmful individuals before their appeals are heard if there is no risk of serious irreversible harm.”

The above point was likely influenced by the expensive, decade-long legal battle to extradite extremist cleric and convicted terrorist Abu Hamza.

More specifically, the act will make it impossible for individuals like Hamza to use Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family life – to stay in the UK.

Illegal migrants will also be denied access to drivers licenses and bank accounts, and attempt to clamp down on those who enter sham marriages or civil partnerships to gain an illegal advantage.

The bill will also empower the Home Secretary to deprive a naturalized persons of their British citizenship if their actions have been deemed “seriously prejudicial to the interests of the United Kingdom and the Home Secretary has reasonable grounds for believing the person is able to become a national of another country.”

There will also be a new residence test requiring residents to have lived in the UK for at least a year before they gain access to civil legal aid.

About 60,000 people were deported from the UK last year, and the government intends to seriously curtail the number of people entering the country every year.