Europeans were by far the group of people facing deportations from the UK by the Home Office in 2021, it has emerged.
It comes as the number of people on government charter flights tripled during the pandemic, from 410 in 2019 and 828 in 2020, to 1,155 in 2021 until November.
Figures show the UK deported 435 people to Albania, followed closely by Romania, the EU country with the highest amount of deported people from the UK – 276.
The European countries were followed by Poland with 167 people deported and Lithuania with 133. Hungary and Bulgaria each received 17 people from Britain, whilst Spain had five.
Several Home Office planes left with less than 10 passengers
Meanwhile, there were 47 people flown to Vietnam, 21 to Zimbabwe, 11 to Jamaica, four to Nigeria and three to Ghana.
Overall, one in six government charter flights left with less than 10 passengers and two planes left with fewer than five passengers, according to figures obtained by The Big Issue.
Activist Karen Doyle, from campaign group Movement for Justice, told the publication: “The increased use of mass deportation charter flights illustrates this government’s disregard for human rights.
“In their race to look ‘tough’ on immigration they subject whole communities, families, and children to a torturous and unjust process.”
And Bella Sankey, Detention Action director, urged all political parties “who care at all for justice” to reform the UK’s deportation regime in order to stop ‘tearing families apart’.
‘Our new law aims to remove those with no right to be in the UK more easily’, Home Office says
The Home Office said the near-empty flights were caused by “last-minute legal challenges” but, according to a Big Issue investigation, those deported often lack appropriate legal representation.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Every week the Home Office removes, to different countries, people who have no right to be in the UK. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have continued to deport foreign national offenders and return other immigration offenders where flight routes have been available to us, both on scheduled and charter flights.
“The government’s efforts to facilitate entirely legitimate and legal returns of people who have entered the UK illegally are often frustrated by late challenges submitted hours before the flight. These claims are often baseless and entirely without merit but are given full legal consideration which can lead to removal being rescheduled. Some operations also have to be cancelled or deferred for reasons related to Covid-19.
“We are looking to address some of this through the New plan for Immigration which aims to more easily remove those with no right to be in the UK.”
The revelations come as the new Nationality and Borders Bill could increase the government’s power on deportation, allow Priti Patel to penalise countries that do not cooperate with Britain on deportations, and allow the government the ability to remove the British citizenship of around six million people without notice and a right to appeal.