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Home Office cancels 40% of scheduled removal flights, finds David Bolt


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David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, recently published a new report into the effectiveness of services that the Home Office outsources to private contractors, finding that inefficiency and lack of communication contribute to a waste of resources and time. The full report is available here: An Inspection of Home Office Outsourced Contracts for Escorted and Non-Escorted Removals and Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation.

The report focused on escorting and ticketing services in forced removals and the management of Cedars, the family Pre-Departure Accommodation Facility and identified several areas for improvement.

In particular, it highlighted poor levels of collaboration between the Home Office and the different private contractors, which resulted in as many as 40% of scheduled flights being cancelled and/or rescheduled and a loss of £1.41 million in non-refundable tickets. Some of the reasons for this were:

  1. Very limited information was provided by caseworkers to the escorting contractor when booking a flight, making it difficult to find coverage;

  2. In some cases escorts were not notified of their time of travel and destination until the evening before departure;

  3. The escorts details were changed at the very last minute, resulting in further costs;

  4. Non-refundable tickets were booked unless the caseworker specifically requested otherwise;

  5. Insufficient notice of removal was given either to the individual or the escorting contractor and travel documents were not obtained in time;

  6. Due to under-staffing and high demand, the escorting contractor was only able to provide escorts on average 15 days after the removal date requested by the caseworker.

The findings relating to Cedars were fairly short and straightforward. Echoing comments in the Shaw Review, Bolt found that although well-managed by G4S and Barnardo’s, the facility was under-utilised and expensive to maintain, considering that no families were hosted there for months at a time. He recommended a substantial review of the need for such facilities in the removal enforcement process, although the Home Office firmly believes that Cedars acts as a deterrent for families facing removal and it is therefore reluctant to close down the facility completely.

Generally, the Home Office’s response to the report was to accept the need for changes. All 8 recommendations were accepted and their implementation was already underway as part of the re-procurement process for the contracts, when the response was drafted.

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