Priti Patel set to hand private firms £28 million in government contracts to deport asylum seekers from UK

Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives for a cabinet meeting in Downing Street. Photograph: Stefan Rouss

Home Secretary Priti Patel arrives for a cabinet meeting in Downing Street. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The government has pledged £28 million to private companies to return asylum seekers who arrive in the UK without a visa.

The Home Office will enlist transport, housing, medical and legal services firms to ensure illegal migrants are "reintegrated" in their home nation, POLITICO has revealed.

According the media outlet, the move is part of a crackdown on illegal migration and a chance for the home secretary to fulfil a promise to deport criminals from the UK.

But migrant rights advocates have said outsourcing to private companies could prove dangerous.

According to data published on the government's website, the Home Office has set aside £28 million to "provide reintegration services for people returning from the U.K. to their countries of origin."

The programme is expected to run from April 2021 to April 2024.

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The data, which appears on the website's "early notification" page and its procurement database, Tussell, said a "small number" of people would return voluntarily but that the rest would be forced.

Funding is also expected to cover airport pickups on arrival and onward travel assistance, medical support, cash and “reintegration counselling”.

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It will also go to providing migrants with access to education, job search services, as well as family tracing and legal support.

The Home Office is yet to issue a request for formal contractor bids.

Chai Patel, legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, warned the government against offloading its legal responsibilities by handing over the repatriation of migrants to private companies.

"Outsourcing the safety of migrants to private companies is no way to run a safe immigration system," Patel said.

“Time and time again we see appalling abuse, neglect and even deaths of people at the hands of corporations that put profits before human lives. The government must be directly accountable for the safety of the people it deports and detains.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The U.K. already provides support for some people returning, including on a voluntary basis.

"We are exploring a number of options for how we provide such assistance in the future. These options will help those returning to re-establish their lives in their countries of origin, with the ultimate aim of helping to prevent illegal migration to the U.K."

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