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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Returns, Deportation and Charter Flights Factsheet

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The purpose of this factsheet is to provide information to explain the deportation process, use of charter flights and the checks and balances in the system to ensure our work is carried out both fairly and in accordance with the law.

·       All those deported have met the criteria for deportation under the UK Borders Act 2007 or the Immigration Act 1971.

 ·       The Home Secretary is required by the 2007 Act to deport any foreign national who has received a custodial sentence of at least 12 months, unless a specified exception applies. Those convicted of serious crimes or who are persistent offenders may be deported where it is conducive to the public good under the 1971 Act.

 ·       Since April 2020 we have used 75 charter flights to return people to countries including Albania, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Jamaica, Lithuania, Nigeria, Poland, Romania and Spain.

·       In the year ending June 2020 there were 5,203 enforced returns, of which 2,630 were to EU countries.

·       In the year ending June 2019 there were 7,895 enforced returns, of which 3,498 were to EU countries.

·       For returns to certain countries we will ensure all persons being returned are not eligible for support or compensation from the Windrush Schemes and that they have no entitlement to British citizenship.

·       In some countries, like Zimbabwe and Jamaica, we provide funding for multiple charities and non-government organisations (NGOs) who help people to re-integrate upon their return. We are one of the few countries in the world who provide this support.


Charter flights are sent to different countries around the world, we utilise them where there is a lack of scheduled routing via commercial airlines to a particular country or where it is most cost effective. We use them to return people under different pieces of legislation and we use different language to describe the type of return:

  • ‘Returns’ is the language we use when referring to ALL types of removals from the UK.
  • ‘Administrative Removal’ is where a person has breached UK immigration laws, and those removed under other administrative and illegal entry powers that have declined to leave voluntarily.
  • ‘Deportation’ is a legally-defined subset of returns, which are enforced either following a criminal conviction, or when it is judged that a person’s removal from the UK is conducive to the public good. Deportations are carried out in the interests of public protection. But this is difficult work which involves making tough decisions so it is absolutely right that we should be open and transparent about the processes we follow.

The legislation

The Home Secretary is required by law (UK Borders Act 2007) to issue a deportation order for any foreign national who has been convicted of an offence in the UK and received a custodial sentence of at least 12 months, unless an exception applies.

Under the Immigration Act 1971, a foreign national may also be deported where it is “conducive to the public good”. Typically, this will be a person who has been convicted of an offence that has caused serious harm, is a persistent offender or who represents a threat to national security.

Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Republic of Ireland, who were citizens before 1 January 1973 and then ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and at the time of the decision to deport had been ordinarily resident for the last five years, are exempt from deportation.

The process

If a foreign national is convicted of a crime and the court sentences them to serve a prison sentence, the prison and probation service is required to inform the Home Office. The police also carry out checks for overseas criminal convictions on those who are arrested.

The UK only ever deports those whom the Home Office – or when legal claims are raised, the courts – are satisfied do not need protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.

Legal challenges

Every person who meets the threshold for deportation is given access to legal advice and support and has an opportunity to challenge their removal through the legal system.

Those being deported are provided with the opportunity to raise claims, including claims that they have been victims of modern slavery and trafficking, prior to their deportation. All claims raised are fully considered and decided upon before deportation including, where applicable and in most cases, via the courts.

A right of appeal to the First-Tier (Immigration and Asylum) Tribunal is available in most cases where the Home Office refuses a human rights or protection claim or where the individual’s protection status is revoked.

When a person makes a claim against deportation under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, a range of factors are considered when assessing the public interest in deportation, in line with the Immigration Rules. The Immigration Rules state that where a person is liable to deportation the presumption shall be that the public interest requires deportation.

In the case of those who have received a prison sentence of between 12 months and less than four years and claim private life, the factors will include the length of time the individual has lived in the UK, as well as the strength of their social and cultural integration in the UK and very significant obstacles to integration in the destination country.

Where the person has claimed family life in the UK, the Immigration Rules state deportation is in the public interest unless the person has a genuine and subsisting relationship with a qualifying partner, or a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child, and the effect of deportation on the partner or child would be unduly harsh.

In cases where a person has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least four years, they will need to demonstrate very compelling circumstances over and above these factors.

All legal claims raised are fully considered and decided upon before deportation, first by the Home Office and then, if the individual is not satisfied with the decision and pursues a legal challenge or appeal, by the courts.

All individuals in Immigration Removal Centres are provided with a mobile phone and have access to landline telephones on request, fax machines, email and video calling facilities which can be used to contact legal advisers and family and friends.

Additionally, face-to-face legal visits are now being facilitated where other means of contact (Skype, telephone, email) are not feasible and safe systems of work are in place to ensure the safety of detained individuals, onsite staff and visitors during these visits.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on returns. However, we have continued to remove individuals where flight routes are available.

The High Court has ruled that the Home Office is taking sensible, precautionary measures in relation to COVID-19 and immigration detention. This is in line with the Public Health England (PHE) guidance and these measures are in place to protect staff and detainees during these unprecedented times.

The safety of detained individuals and staff is of vital importance. The Home Office has robust contingency measures in place and basic hygiene has been enhanced. All individuals due to be on this flight will be assessed by a healthcare professional before they leave the Immigration Removal Centre.

Public health guidance is adhered to on all removal flights and transport arrangements will continue to be reviewed in line with Government advice.

Re-integration support

For those being deported on our upcoming charter flight to Zimbabwe, the Home Office is funding re-integration support provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM will provide initial support upon arrival to help those returning to re-integrate into Zimbabwe society. They will provide initial accommodation for those who may need it and transport across Zimbabwe to their final destination. They will also provide health packs with all necessary PPE. Additionally, they will assess what further support may be needed, including  health and mental health requirements and refer them to their local IOM funded projects across Zimbabwe.

We also provide funding for returns to Jamaica; the Home Office supports two NGOs in Jamaica who provide re-integration support to those who are deported. They provide initial support to those who may not have anyone to meet them at the airport or who need transport. They are also able to help with short-term accommodation for those without a place to stay.

In the longer term they can provide training, including recognised qualifications, to enable them to find employment and help with obtaining documentation. They can also provide emotional and wellbeing support to those who need it.


Full published data on our returns figures can be found here:

Our published statistics refer to enforced returns which include deportations, as well as cases where a person has breached UK immigration laws, and those removed under other administrative powers who have declined to leave voluntarily. Figures on deportations alone are not separately available.


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