Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics table Q1 2015, rv.03
Deportations, Removals and Voluntary Departures from the UK
This briefing examines the number of people deported or removed from the UK and those departing voluntarily after the initiation of enforced removal. It further examines the method and to the extent possible, the grounds for their removal and their nationalities.
- In 2014 there were 38,767 people who were removed from the UK or departed voluntarily after the initiation of removal.
- Enforced removals have declined since 2004 while voluntary departures have increased. Changes in the recorded number of removals since 2004 may reflect changes in data collection on voluntary departures, however.
- Removals and voluntary departures of asylum applicants and their dependents have declined every year since 2006, reaching 6,788 in 2014.
- The UK removed 5,022 foreign national offenders in 2014.
- Nearly 6 out of every 10 people (58%) deported or voluntarily removed from the UK in 2014 were nationals of Asian countries. Nationals of India, Pakistan, and China made up 40% of the 2014 total.
The solid line in Figure 1 shows that in 2014 there were 38,767 people who were removed from the UK or departed voluntarily after the initiation of removal. This figure excludes individuals refused entry at port and subsequently removed, in order to focus more closely on what most people normally think of as 'deportation'.
In order to interpret the trends over time in Figure 1, it is important to understand the role of 'other confirmed voluntary departures'. As a category that was included from 2005 data onwards, it counts people who had removal action initiated against them and left voluntarily outside of the official removal schemes without notifying immigration officials, but whose departure has been confirmed nonetheless. These confirmations may have come from Home Office efforts at data-matching, using identifications at border controls, subsequent visa applications, or passenger information gathered from airlines.
Although this category has grown over time, it is impossible to know to what extent this growth comes from either better data collection, actual changes in the number of removals, or a combination of both. A UKBA report suggests that the 'steep rise' might come from better data matching being provided by the monitoring of departures at major airports through the early stages of the eBorders program (now known as Semaphore) (Poppleton and Rice 2009).
The dotted line in Figure 1 provides a more consistent picture of trends over time, by excluding the category of 'other confirmed voluntary departures'. This view allows a 'like for like' comparison that shows how enforced removals and voluntary departures through official schemes have changed over time. It reveals that the changes overall voluntary departures and removals since 2007 has been mainly driven by this 'other' category. This category was also responsible for the apparent decrease in departures in 2014. However, the number of voluntary departures is usually understated when the figures are first published because of people who leave without notifying the authorities. For example, the 2012 figure was revised up by more than 3,600 after its initial publication. As a result, it is possible that the 2014 data will eventually show a smaller difference from 2013.In short, the dotted line in Figure 1 may be preferable for examining change over time, but the solid line more accurately reflects the total number of removals and departures, especially in more recent years as data collection has improved.
As explained in the Understanding the evidence section, Home Office datasets classify departures and removals by the way that they take place. Table 2 breaks up the broad categories seen in Table 1 into their parts and compares them over time. This provides more detail showing what kinds of departures and removals have taken place. In 2014, 32% (12,460 people) left via enforced removal. Meanwhile, 6% (2,406) left through Assisted Voluntary Return programmes run by Refugee Action (which were run by the International Organization for Migration prior to April 2011), 27% (10,609) departed and notified the UK Government, while the remaining 34% (13,292) were classified as 'other confirmed departures'.
Figure 2 shows that the numbers of enforced removals have declined since 2004. The sharpest rise has been in 'other confirmed' voluntary departures, from 852 in 2004 to 13,292 in 2014. As noted above, this might result from better data matching and monitoring of departures at major airports (Poppleton and Rice 2009), but there may still be an unknown number of voluntary departures occurring that are not detected by the Home Office. As a result, it is difficult to know how much of this trend is the result of more people actually leaving this way, or whether it comes from better data about such departures. Finally, the advent of assisted voluntary returns programs in 1999 and 2004 made up an additional category of removals that are tracked separately in Home Office data since 2004.
Home Office datasets also classify removals and departures into asylum and non-asylum types. Figure 3 shows how the number of people leaving in each category have changed over the past decade. In 2014, 6,788 people removed or forced to depart were asylum cases. This is the lowest total since the current system of data collection began. These decreases are not surprising in light of the smaller number of asylum applications made to the UK since 2002 (see the briefing on Migration to the UK: Asylum).
Figure 3 also shows that while asylum cases have been declining since 2006, non-asylum cases increased annually since 2006 except for a small decline in 2011. However, it is important to recall that these trends include the additional category of other confirmed voluntary departures. When excluding this category non-asylum cases are still increasing, but at a slower rate (as the dotted line in Figure 3 shows).
Figure 3 also shows that while asylum cases have been declining since 2006, removals and departures of non-asylum cases have increased annually since 2006 except for a small decline in 2011. However, it is important to remember that these trends include the additional category of other confirmed voluntary departures. Excluding this category reveals that non-asylum cases are still increasing, but at a slower rate (as the dotted line in Figure 3 shows).
The types of removals occurred at different rates for asylum cases compared to non-asylum cases (not illustrated in the figures). In 2014, 62% of asylum removals and departures were enforced, compared to 26% of non-asylum removals and departures.
Home Office datasets also report the number of foreign national offenders deported each year, with data beginning in 2009. In 2014, 5,022 foreign national offenders were removed from the UK. These numbers have fluctuated between 4,600 and 5,600 over time.
Nationals of Asian countries comprised the largest share of removals and departures in 2014 (58.2%) followed by Africans (15.6%) and Europeans (14.7%)
Figure 5 shows that, by region of nationality, the largest numbers of people removed in 2014 came from Asia (22,549, or 58.2% of the total), Africa (6,032; 15.6%), Europe (5,694; 14.7%), and the Middle East (1,920; 5%). Note that these figures do not include people refused entry at port and subsequently removed.
By country, India (19%), Pakistan (14%), and China (7%) were the countries with the largest shares of removals and departures in 2014, collectively comprising 40% of the 2014 total. These are shown in Table 1, along with the rest of the top ten for 2014.
Table 1 - Top Ten Countries of Enforced Removal or Voluntary Departure, 2014
|Rank||Country||Number||Share of total|
Evidence gaps and limitations
There are a few notable gaps and limitations in the data on deportation, removals, and departures. Data on the grounds for removal show number of rejected asylum applicants and foreign national prisoners, but do not go beyond that. Other removals and departures are not disaggregated by reason for removal, so we cannot say how many deported migrants were illegal entrants, how many overstayed visas and how many violated the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK in other ways. In fact, no up-to-date and reliable figures currently exist on the total number of unauthorised migrants in the UK (for more information see the Election 2015 briefing on Enforcement).
Finally, the lack of administrative exit data has created uncertainty around other confirmed voluntary departures (see our report on the Top 10 Problems in the Evidence Base). Although a system of exit checks is now being implemented and is expected to produce better data on departures, there is no good way to go back and estimate the occurrences of such departures prior to Home Office efforts to detect such departures beginning in 2005.
- Green, D. "Asylum: Deportation." House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 6 Sept 2010: Column 755W-continued, House of Commons, London, 2010.
- Home Affairs Committee. "The Work of the UK Border Agency (November 2010-March 2011)." Ninth report of Session 2010-12, Volume I, House of Commons, London, 2011.
- National Audit Office. “Returning Failed Asylum Applicants.” HC 76 Session 2005-2006, Appendix 2: 44, National Audit Office, London, 2005.
- Poppleton, S. and L. Rice. "Programmes and Strategies in the UK Fostering Assisted Return to And Reintegration In Third Countries." European Migration Network (EMN) Project Report, 2009.
- UK Border Agency. "Impact Assessment of Proposed Amendments to the Immigration Rules; refusing entry or extensions of stay to NHS debtors. Summary: Intervention and Options." Home Office, London, 2009.
- Woolas, P. "Asylum: Deportation." House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 6 July 2009: Column 563W, House of Commons, London, 2009.
- Gibney, Matthew J. "Asylum and the Expansion of Deportation in the United Kingdom." Government and Opposition 43 (2008): 139-143.
- Paoletti, Emanuela. "Deportation, Non-deportability and Ideas of Membership." Working Paper Series No. 65, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford, 2010.
- Migration Observatory briefing: Migration to the UK: Asylum
- Migration Observatory Election 2015 briefing: Enforcement: Enforced Removals and Voluntary Departures of People Violating Immigration Law
- Migration Observatory report: Top 10 Problems in the Evidence Base
Thanks to Bridget Anderson and Jon Simmons and his Home Office colleagues for helpful comments in an earlier version of this briefing.