Immigration officials have come under fire from a judge for refusing to detain an illegal immigrant who wants to be deported, despite fears he will go straight back to crime when released from prison.
Judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh said he was “surprised and troubled” when told Vietnamese national Lai Vanty could not be held to await a flight out of the UK, meaning he will be set free later on Thursday.
Vanty’s lawyer told Isleworth crown court the 43-year-old is keen to go home, having fallen under the control of a drug gang while illegally in the UK and been convicted of running a cannabis farm.
He has no passport or official documentation and will be “homeless, penniless, and without resort to legitimate income”, the judge said.
But immigration officials insist Vanty must just be set free as “current detention is focused on high-harm offenders”.
“I’m surprised and troubled there’s nothing whatsoever the relevant authorities can do”, said the judge.
He said the official line was “unless someone is high-risk or something of a danger, there are no facilities”.
“They propose doing nothing and allowing the prison to release him back into the community. What that just means is pushed out of the door of the prison. He has no connections here or links, no home that I’m aware of.”
The judge adjourned the case last week for immigration authorities to consider the case, but their position did not shift prior to today’s hearing.
In the early hours of this morning 13 serious foreign criminals were deported from the UK. It is disappointing that immigration law firms continued to use last minute tactics to remove a significant number of offenders from this flight.
— Chris Philp (@CPhilpOfficial) December 2, 2020
He delayed sentencing again until this afternoon to give time for a senior official to come to court to explain the stance, but no one turned up.
Judge Curtis-Raleigh pointed out all lawyers in the case agreed Vanty had been “subject to a degree of exploitation” by a criminal gang when put in charge of the cannabis factory in Hounslow.
And the judge said he would likely have granted a further delay if anyone from government had asked for more time to solve the impasse.
The government has been attacking lawyers and human rights law firms in recent months over deportations, claiming efforts to remove criminals from the UK were being thwarted by last-minute legal challenges.
Yesterday, Justice Minister Chris Philp aimed the latest broadside at the legal profession over a deportation flight which had been scheduled for the previous night.
“In the early hours of this morning 13 serious foreign criminals were deported from the UK”, he wrote. “It is disappointing that immigration law firms continued to use last minute tactics to remove a significant number of offenders from this flight.
“These individuals had every opportunity to raise the claims in the days and weeks leading up to the flight, however a significant number of claims were not submitted until hours before the flight was due to leave - meaning some murderers and rapists were able to stay in the UK.”
Mr Philp added: “I'm committed to removing foreign criminals and anyone with no right to be here to keep the British public safe, which is always my priority.”
Vanty was sentenced today to eight months in prison for an offence of cultivating cannabis from May this year. He will be released from prison today due to time already served.
Judge Curtis-Raleigh told Vanty his best route home would be seeking out the immigration services himself and asking for paperwork to leave the UK, warning him: “You must act lawfully.”