Record number of EU citizens deported from NI in 2016

Home Office denies any link with Brexit vote or UK government’s clampdown pledge

Across the UK, detention rates have increased fivefold since the now prime minister, Theresa May, took the helm of the Home Office in 2010. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Across the UK, detention rates have increased fivefold since the now prime minister, Theresa May, took the helm of the Home Office in 2010. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

 

A record number of citizens from European Union member states were detained on immigration grounds and deported from Northern Ireland in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum.

UK Home Office figures obtained by Belfast-based website The Detail show 161 EU nationals were detained at Larne House, Northern Ireland’s only immigration detention centre, during 2016.

The facility, about 30km north of Belfast, can hold individuals for up to seven days before they are transferred to long-term detention centres in Scotland or England and are then deported, released on bail, or permitted to remain in the UK.

Of the 161 EU citizens detained at Larne House in 2016, the Home Office indicated 92 per cent were deported or removed to their home countries, 5 per cent were bailed or placed under immigration restrictions and 3 per cent were allowed to remain in the UK.

Only 15 EU nationals were held there in 2012 – the first full year for which detention data for the short-term holding facility is available. The proportion of EU citizens held at Larne House rose from one in 12 of all individuals detained in 2014 to one in four in 2016. The most recent data available shows 69 people were detained there in the first six months of 2018.

Not devolved

The significant increase in the detention and deportation of EU citizens in 2016 coincided with a UK government pledge to clamp down on immigration as part of its Brexit campaign. Immigration control and enforcement is not a devolved matter.

The Home Office said the 2016 spike was not Brexit-related but stemmed from a rise in EU nationals with criminal records being intercepted on sea and air routes into Northern Ireland. A spokesperson told The Detail: “The 73 per cent increase in EU citizens detained in Northern Ireland in 2016 is largely down to a corresponding rise (71 per cent) that year in the number of foreign national criminals intercepted by Immigration Enforcement attempting to abuse the Common Travel Area (CTA) to avoid detection at a UK port. Brexit had no bearing whatsoever on the increase.”

However, Larne House Visitor Group, a group of volunteers who offer support to people detained on immigration grounds, said reasons given by the Home Office for deportation were varied and often less than clear: “It could be a previous conviction in the EU national’s home country or for serving a short sentence for a petty crime committed in the UK. But we’ve also seen a case where a speeding ticket was being used as justification to deport an individual and there have been other examples where individuals faced arrest when re-entering the UK for reasons that were not entirely clear.”

Post-Brexit fears

A charity organisation advocating for an end to immigration detention in the UK, Bail for Immigration Detainees UK (BID) said the rising trend in Northern Ireland did not bode well for EU citizens after Brexit. BID director Celia Clarke said: “We cannot imagine what will happen after the UK actually leaves the EU since there are no specific provisions in place yet to regularise the residence of the 3.5 million EEA [European Economic Area] nationals currently living in the UK.”

Home Office figures also show that the majority (77 per cent) of EU nationals detained in Northern Ireland between 2011 and mid-2018 came from three member states: Romania, Lithuania and Poland.

Since July 2011, when Larne House opened, more than 4,000 people from across the globe have been detained there.

Across the UK, detention rates have increased fivefold since the now prime minister, Theresa May, took the helm of the Home Office in 2010. The detention of EU citizens across the UK increased from 1,013 in 2010 to 5,319 in 2017.

  • More information on this story is available at thedetail.tv