Taxpayers foot £9.1m bill for deportations by private plane
Foreign criminals and failed asylum-seekers are being flown home on private planes costing the taxpayer more than £9 million in the past year.
Over the past five years, £57.3 million has been spent on chartered flights to deport people from the UK, according to figures released by the Home Office.
The cost has come down following criticism foreigners were being flown back on half-empty planes at huge expense to the taxpayer, with £9.1 million spent on the flights in 2015/16 compared with £13.2 million the year before.
Over the past five years at least 1,999 foreign offenders have been deported from Britain on the private flights.
These included 367 in 2012, 424 in 2013, 498 in 2014, 486 in 2015 and 224 so far in 2016 the Home Office said, although it warned these figures could be subject to change.
Harry Davis, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers will be amazed that this figure is still so stubbornly high from a department that should be looking to cut out frivolous spending.
"Clearly anyone who is not here legally should be returned home but the cost of travel needs to be kept under control and certainly the use of private jets should be restricted to only the most exceptional circumstances.
"All areas of public spending should be under scrutiny, so ministers need to make sure that they have the right protocols and best organisational standards in place so they can keep costs low as possible."
The figures were elicited in a series of parliamentary questions asked by the SNP's Chris Law (Dundee West).
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said a cost comparison between charter flights and commercial flights takes place every six months.
So far this year, 18 chartered flights have been paid for to deport 718 foreigners - at least 194 were foreign criminals while the rest include failed asylum-seekers or those who have committed immigration offences.
In 2015, the Home Office paid for 38 chartered flights, down from 46 the year before, 48 in 2013 and 45 in 2012.
Mr Brokenshire said: "Home Office charter flights are used to remove individuals who have been refused asylum in the UK but also individuals who have committed other immigration and criminal offences.
"Home Office records indicate that there were 45 charters in 2012, 48 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 38 in 2015 and 18 to date in 2016.
"In addition to charter flights, the Home Office also removes people via scheduled commercial services."