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Inspection report published: An inspection of the Home Office’s operations to effect the removal of Foreign National Offenders

Commenting on the publication of the report, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, said:

I welcome the publication of this report on the ICIBI’s inspection of Home Office operations to effect the removal of foreign national offenders (FNOs).

In this inspection, I found the Home Office’s inability to provide reliable or consistent data and management information (MI) of particular concern.  This had a clear impact on the ability of senior managers to plan strategically and at an operational level, with staff relying on a myriad of spreadsheets to record case details, monitor workflow, and set priorities. This is not an efficient use of resources and ultimately undermines both the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations in the Foreign National Offenders Returns Command (FNORC). Frustratingly, this is something that the ICIBI has repeatedly encountered and commented on in previous reports relating to Home Office functions.

It is clear to me that the Home Office does not have a firm grip on its caseworking operations in FNORC, and the shortcomings with data and MI add to this challenge.  Staff throughout the command lacked a clear sense of priorities and I found a disproportionate focus on managing cases, rather than making decisions and progressing the removal of FNOs. If my assessment is correct, this inspection points towards broader concerns for the Home Office in anticipation of a likely increase in immigration detention, removals and caseworking as a consequence of the IMB.

The Early Removal Scheme (ERS) is not working well. This means that FNOs who want to leave the country are not being removed quickly. This is largely down to delays in caseworking which add to the significant challenges and costs of detaining FNOs in the prison estate. I found that little, if any, progress had been made in this area since the National Audit Office made similar findings in 2014.

The Facilitated Return Scheme (FRS), however, has seen an improved performance in 2022, but this was mostly driven by a change in policy that has brought EEA national prisoners into the scope of FRS and by the current focus on removing Albanian nationals. That said, processes and management of the scheme could be clearer and more tightly managed.

Senior leaders in the Home Office had a good awareness of the problems they faced in relation to caseworking and the removal schemes. Measures to improve efficiency and effectiveness including an increase in resources to process more deportation decisions, an end-to-end review of caseworking, and plans to simplify processes were underway. However, it was too early for me to assess the effectiveness of these initiatives.


This report is now the 28th (of 29) to be published in my tenure that has failed to meet the eight-week publication commitment made by ministers and the department.

I made four recommendations in this report. I am pleased that the Home Office has fully accepted three of them and accepted/partially accepted the fourth. I am encouraged to hear that work is already under way to tackle the issues the inspection identified.

Link:, dated June 29, 2023 12:54 pm

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