A joint Home Office and police operation to identify and remove high-risk foreign offenders and those not entitled to be in the UK had resulted in a significant increase in the number who had left the UK. However, the Chief Inspector found more could be done to make the initiative more effective.
Operation Nexus is a joint Home Office and Police Service initiative to identify and remove or deport those who pose a risk to the public or who are not entitled to be in the UK. The most significant feature involves stationing Immigration Officers at police custody suites to assist with the identification and management of immigration offenders.
The Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:
- Op Nexus resulted in a significant increase in the number of requests made by the Met for the Home Office to check whether a foreign national was entitled to reside in the UK , rising from 4,373 checks in July 2013 to 6,403 in November 2013 (44%). This saw a corresponding rise in the number of immigration offenders being identified, with 1,553 detected between October 2013 and January 2014, compared to 1,134 between October 2011 and January 2012, an increase of 37%;
- there was a 158% increase in the number of immigration offenders who were identified after an encounter with the Met police and subsequently left the UK, rising from 418 in 2011/12 to 1,077 in 2013/14, an increase of 158%;
- linking police and Home Office fingerprint databases meant arrested individuals were automatically checked to determine if they were a foreign national, increasing the prospect of a status checks being requested from the Home Office;
- the police referring to the Home Office cases which met their definition of ‘high harm,’ resulted in 85 removals or deportations in 2013/14;
- senior Police Officers were very positive about the potential of the ‘high harm’ work stream, which had resulted in the removal or deportation of 85 foreign nationals in 2013/14.
However, the Chief Inspector also found that:
- in the West Midlands, the number of status checks requested by the police had increased considerably by 122%, but this had not translated into a similar increase in the number of immigration offenders being transferred into immigration detention. This was in direct contrast to London, which saw an 88% increase in the average number of immigration offenders per month being transferred directly into immigration detention from suites with embedded IOs;
- some foreign nationals passing through the three embedded WMP custody suites did not appear to have their immigration status checked and that some embedded IOs did not have unrestricted access to custody suites;
- in 15 out of the 33 cases (45%), where immigration offenders had not yet been removed or deported, the Home Office was not taking effective steps to secure these outcomes, due to not managing ETD applications effectively, not making decisions on applications for further leave to remain and not attempting to detain offenders who could be removed;
- Immigration Enforcement removals casework and enforcement teams were experiencing difficulty in coping with the additional casework that was being generated by Op Nexus;
- embedded IOs were not following a consistent process when reporting the number of status checks they had undertaken;
- Emergency Travel Documentation forms were not completed in six out of 28 non-detained cases (21%) where the IO had contact with the immigration offender;
- written records of interviews under caution had not been retained in seven of the 11 cases we examined (64%).
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine CBE QPM:
“It was clear that this aspect of Nexus was having a positive impact in London, with greater numbers of immigration offenders being identified and removed or deported from the UK as a result.
I was pleased to see that the Police and Home Office were sharing resources and intelligence to target ‘high harm’ individuals. Its potential was demonstrated by the removal or deportation of potentially dangerous foreign nationals.
However, although the number of such outcomes had also increased in the West Midlands, the rate of improvement was slower than in London and in some cases foreign nationals were not having their status checked before being released.
In order to be even more effective, Nexus needs to be consolidated by making sure that casework and enforcement teams are positioned to capitalise on the opportunities presented. In particular, emergency travel documents need to be obtained promptly and enforcement visits conducted swiftly.”
The Chief Inspector made FIVE recommendations for improvement. These included that the Home Office takes action to improve the number of removals in the West Midlands Police Force area and maintains accurate central records of the total number of status checks that are undertaken at custody suites.