ALMOST £100 million has been spent deporting people on private flights in the last decade, the Sunday National can reveal. A total of 390 private flights between 2010 and February this year were chartered by the UK Government to deport people from the country.

The statistics were released after a Freedom of Information request from the SNP.

MSP Bob Doris has reacted to the figures with fury. “The Tories’ hostile approach to immigration has resulted in the detention and deportation of pregnant women and children – turning those who have faced unimaginable horror away to fend for themselves,” he said.

“This Westminster Government has become so obsessed with arbitrary immigration figures they’ve thrown away almost £100m on 390 private flights to deport people from this country.

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“That’s the equivalent of a year’s salary for well over 3000 extra nurses who could have been deployed across the UK to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“But instead the Tories have thrown millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on creating a toxic environment for anyone who comes to the UK – they should hang their heads in shame.”

The news follows a revelation that the Home Office rejected 65 asylum claims and 310 applications for discretionary leave to remain made by child victims of modern slavery between April 2017 and December 2018. That period was also when the Windrush scandal broke where people were wrongly detained and deported by the Home Office.

The two sets of figures – which may involve some overlap as victims can claim for both asylum and discretionary leave to remain – were only released after a year-long fight by BuzzFeed News that involved a formal complaint to the information regulator and multiple internal reviews.

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In response to the new data, a Home Office spokesperson told the Sunday National: “We make no apology whatsoever for seeking to remove immigration offenders and dangerous foreign criminals.

The Home Office makes enforced returns by both charter flights and regular scheduled flights. Charter flight operations are important where there are limited scheduled routes or more disruptive returnees.

The National:

“The majority of enforced immigration returns are undertaken using scheduled flights alongside fare-paying passengers.

He added: “The use of charter flights is a standard part of immigration enforcement regimes, and they are used by many other countries, not just the UK.

“We may also use charter flights following an individual case assessment and where it is the most appropriate means of returning an individual.

“Foreign national offenders should be in no doubt of our determination to remove them, and since 2010 we have removed more than 52,000.

“The UK only ever returns those who both the Home Office and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.”

The Home Office’s own figures show that in the year ending June 2019, 24,052 individuals entered the detention estate. One person died while being held solely under immigration powers in detention, compared with four in 2017. That does not include those who died while being detained solely under immigration powers in prison, or after leaving detention.

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Of those leaving detention, 46% received Secretary of State (SoS) bail, 41% were returned from the UK to either their home or another country and 11% were granted bail by an immigration judge. The remainder

includes people granted leave to enter or remain, and those leaving for other reasons.

There were 8060 enforced returns from the UK in the year ending June 2019, 26% (2854) fewer than the previous year (10,914).

Of the enforced returns in the latest period, 23% (1830) were returns of people who had previously sought asylum. Albanian nationals had the highest number of asylum-related returns (296).

In the same period there were 13,140 voluntary returns from the UK.

The number of passengers refused entry at port and subsequently departed rose by 5% in year ending June 2019, compared with the previous year (to 19,399) and represents a rise for the seventh consecutive year. EU nationals accounted for 16% (3090) compared to 20% a year ago (3665).

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People from Romania, Albania, Poland, Brazil and Lithuania accounted for over 50% of the total enforced returns in the year ending June 2019 although Brazilian nationals were the only nationality in the group that saw an increase (up 142).

The largest number of voluntary returns were Indian (2092) nationals followed by Chinese (1234) and Pakistani (1197) nationals which accounted for over one-third of the total voluntary returns (13,140).

The largest number of passengers refused entry at port and subsequently departed were Brazilian nationals (1918) followed by Romanian (1543) and Albanian (1403) nationals.

In the year ending June 2019, there were 5203 Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) returned, 11% less than the previous year (5853). These figures are included in the total returns figures, with the majority being enforced returns.

Of the 5203 FNOs just over two-thirds (68%) were EU nationals (3560), while almost one-third (32%) were non-EU nationals (1643) and 10% of the total were also known to have an overseas criminal record.

Since records began in 2009, the share of FNOs being returned from the UK, including those who are known to have an overseas criminal record, has risen significantly for EU nationals, from 14% to 68% in the year ending June 2019.