Labour sets out plan for 1,000-strong asylum removals squad

'Returns and Enforcement Unit' would target the 40% fall in asylum removals since 2010, shadow home secretary says
Photo: Nigel Bowles/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

18 Mar 2024

Labour has said it will create a squad of 1,000 officials who will track down failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals and speed up their removal from the UK.

The “Returns and Enforcement Unit” would aim to address the 40% fall in asylum removals since 2010, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

Under Labour's plans, the government would employ civil servants in the UK and abroad, with overseas officials tasked with negotiating returns agreements.

“Without firm, fair enforcement of the rules, the system ends up in chaos, costs soar, confidence collapses and exploitation grows,” Cooper said.

"The 40% drop in returns of failed asylum cases since 2010 undermines the credibility of the entire system. That’s why Labour will set up a new returns and enforcement unit to speed up the system and make sure rules are respected.”

Labour said the plans will be financed by savings from clearing the backlog of asylum cases in the Home Office and ending the use of hotels to house asylum seekers.

The party said it would also introduce a fast-track asylum casework system for safe countries so cases are processed "within weeks". It said the home secretary would provide a weekly update on progress on removals.

Labour has also set out plans for a crackdown on illegal employment practices and said it would work with law enforcement to bring down human trafficking networks.

Meanwhile, a report by the IPPR think tank, released today, has warned the government's controversial Rwanda scheme – which aims to deport asylum seekers who arrive illegally to the African country – could cost the government as much as £3.9bn for the first 20,000 people removed.

A Home Office spokeperson rejected the report’s findings, saying "the best way of saving taxpayer money is by deterring people from coming here illegally in the first place, and our partnership with Rwanda intends to do just that".

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