Taxpayers have shelled out £10MILLION in just five years on ‘phantom’ flights to return failed asylum seekers that are abandoned before take-off
- Some £10m spent on cancelled flights for failed asylum seekers in past five years
- Tickets are booked but not used due to last-minute appeals or ‘non-compliance’
- MPs have demanded Sajid Javid tightens the system up to stop wasting money
The taxpayer has shelled out more than £10million in just five years on ‘phantom’ flights to deport failed asylum seekers that are abandoned before take off.
The eye-watering costs, caused by last-ditch appeals and individuals refusing go quietly, have sparked renewed demands for the system to be tightened up.
MPs told MailOnline the airline industry was ‘making quite a lot of money’ due to the Home Office’s failure to negotiate better contracts.
Problems arise when officials book seats only for legal challenges to be launched against deportation at the last minute – meaning they have to be abandoned.
There has been criticism that the Human Rights Act is being abused to drag out cases.
Poorly-trained staff are also allegedly adding to the issues by trying to put disruptive individuals on planes alone – with pilots then refusing to have them on board.
MPs told MailOnline the airline industry was ‘making quite a lot of money’ due to the Home Office’s failure to negotiate better contracts (file pic)
According to the latest Home Office accounts, the bill for cancelled repatriation flights was £2.04million last year.
That was down slightly from £2.45million in 2017-18. But it takes the bill for the past five years to over £10million.
Despite repeated pledges of a crackdown, the scale of the problem has grown since 2014-15 when it cost £1.58million.
Tory MP Peter Bone airlines were clearly making ‘quite a lot of money unnecessarily’.
How the costs of ‘phantom’ flights have racked up
2018-19 – £2.04million
2017-18 – £2.45million
2016-17 – £2.1million
2015-16 – £1.9million.
2014-15 – £1.58million
‘The Home Office has to look at two aspects of this. First of all they should stop these last minute appeals which are done deliberately to stop people being flown back to their country of origin,’ he said.
‘The second thing is they they have got to talk to the airlines and get a proper deal.
‘This idea that they are booking flights and then having to pay when they don’t go on them is ludicrous. It’s not how you would organise it if you were in private business.
‘If I were the airline I would love to have that business.’
He said: ‘That’s just wrong… Someone in the airline industry is raking in quite a lot of money unnecessarily.’
The Home Office accounts said: ‘Fruitless payments totalling £2.04 million (2017-18: £2.45 million) were incurred by the Home Office as a result of cancellations of scheduled flights intended to remove ineligible asylum seekers, which were subsequently cancelled due to asylum seekers being granted the right to appeal.’
In April it was claimed that illegal immigrants are avoiding deportation because ‘poorly trained, overworked’ Home Office staff are putting them on flights without a security escort.
Foreign nationals being sent home are reportedly being placed on planes alone, before causing disruption which then can lead to pilots refusing to take off with them aboard.
This means that some flights then have to be ‘abandoned’, sources at the Government department told the Guardian.
Tory MPs have demanded Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured at Cabinet last week) looks again at the issue of repatriation flights
One whistleblower told the paper the use of escort staff on flights was ‘erratic’.
‘One of the main reasons planned deportations don’t go ahead is because a poorly trained, overworked caseworker has gambled that an applicant with a history of kicking off on planes, won’t do it again, so doesn’t give them an escort,’ they claimed.
‘But then they do kick off and the deportation has to be abandoned.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders, failed asylum seekers and those who overstay their visa.
‘We seek to minimise any losses incurred as a result of unused tickets. However, some losses are unavoidable due to the last minute nature of some legal challenges, disruption caused by non-compliant behaviour of the returnee or other factors outside of our control.
‘We would reiterate that any steps to challenge a person’s removal from the UK should be taken at the earliest possible opportunity, by the individual or their professional advisers, to prevent unnecessary public expense.’
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