THE Home Office has refused to release details of what happened to thousands of migrants who were rescued from boats crossing the English Channel, claiming "it would take too long and cost too much to work out."
The staggering admission comes despite the Government declaring the crossings a "major incident" it was determined to tackle 18 months ago.
There were pledges by two Home Secretaries and the Prime Minister to return most of those who arrived to France.
More than 4,000 people have arrived in the country since mid 2018, after making the treacherous journey in small boat trips arranged by ruthless people smugglers.
However, the Home Office has admitted just a fraction (155) have been returned.
ARRIVAL: Illegal immigrants are filmed coming ashore in Kent (ITV)
New arrivals have shot up since the start of the lockdown and none of the 1,138 who made it here in the past seven weeks have been sent back.
The latest arrived today at 11 am when three men, Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Libyan nationals, were passed to immigration officials after being intercepted in the Channel near Dover, Kent.
On Thursday about 40 people were found in three boats in the Channel.
The first interception at 5 am involved 21 migrants who said they were Kuwaiti, Afghani, Iranian and Iraqi.
The second, at 6.25 am had 14 people found who presented as Iranian, Afghani, Pakistani and Eritrean.
The third vessel, stopped at 10.25 am included six from Kuwait and Syria.
FAILURE: Eighteen months ago Sajid Javid vowed to send most migrants back (ITV)
Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared the crossings a "major Government incident" and called for regular briefings 18 months ago, but officials said they were unable to say how many of the arrivals have claimed or been granted asylum, because such basic data has not been collated.
Mr Javid's, successor Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson all pledged to use an international agreement, known as the Dublin Regulation, which means refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, to ensure the majority of those crossing the Channel would be returned to France.
HOLLOW WARNING: Boris Johnson's pledge to return migrants made last August was also hot air (ITV)
But, the Home Office has refused to release regular statistics on returns and the details that have emerged show only a fraction have actually been sent back.
In 2019 an estimated 1,890 people were brought ashore, but just 125 (6 per cent) were sent back.
Only 30 have been returned in 2020.
Essex News and Investigations asked under the Freedom of Information Act for the total number who have arrived in this way, how many made asylum claims and were successful, and how many were returned.
SCANDAL: Dangerous crossings have increased under Javid, Jonson and Patel's leadership (ITV)
The Home Office claimed it would take a team of four more than four weeks to work out the data, meaning it was too expensive to release.
We have lodged an appeal with the Information Commissioner who could force the release of the data.
Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch, called for more transparency and action to stem illegal entries to the country.
He said: "Ministers are obviously preoccupied at the moment, but as soon as this crisis is over, they really must focus on tackling the continuing high number of illegal arrivals.
"It is time to stem the flow of illegal channel crossings that are still a daily occurrence despite the Home Secretary's stated aim of rendering it an 'infrequent phenomenon'."
CONCERN: Increased illegal Channel crossings are lining the pockets of people smugglers (ITV)
The majority of those coming across the Channel claim to be from Iran and the number of successful asylum applications by Iranians shot up by 143 per cent to 2,723 in 2019, according to Home Office statistics released earlier this year, suggesting many are being allowed to stay.
And use of the Dublin Regulation by the UK has had limited success.
In 2019 there were 3,258 requests from the UK to transfer individuals out of the UK to other member states, but only 263 were accepted with just 26 of them going back to France.
CLAIM: Priti Patel is the third Tory heavyweight to promise to end the migrant crisis only to fail (YouTube)
The Home Office also said it cannot work out how many illegal immigrants have been caught entering the country through all ways such as hidden in lorries over the past two decades.
Officials said it would cost thousands of pounds to work out the total number of clandestine entries into the country and that there is no central database to record those apprehended at ports, airports, in the backs of lorries or on our beaches.
We asked for the number of people who have been intercepted illegally entering the UK from the years 2000/01 to 2018/19 inclusive, and for a breakdown of methods and locations of entry for the past four years.
The Home Office response said: "We do not hold data on clandestine migrant detection from 2000.
"To provide the information you have requested would require a search through the records of thousands of cases."
SECRECY: Home Office refused to release details of how many Channel migrants got asylum (Sky News)
It said they would have to trawl through records at more than 100 ports and it would take months to do.
It said it held the figures for the past four years, but refused to release them, claiming it could aid people smugglers if the numbers and locations were published.
However, new figures released by the National Audit Office, which did a review of the Home Office immigration department, showed there were 46,900 clandestine entries detected in the year up to October 2019 - up from the 40,800 in the 12 months before that.
Tony Eastaugh, Home Office Director for Crime and Enforcement, said: “The people facilitating these small boats crossings are doing so illegally and we are determined to stop these reckless criminal acts.
“Our priorities are to arrest and dismantle the organised crime gangs who are prepared to gamble with the lives of others and returning those who have come here illegally, from a safe country.
REFUSAL: The Home Office was secretive about overall clandestine entry data (Sky News)
“Since we intensified our work against people smugglers 16 months ago, the courts have convicted and imprisoned 110 offenders."
Meanwhile, extraditions and deportations of foreign criminals, wanted in connection with crimes in their home countries, have been delayed due to border closures during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Westminster Magistrates' Court saw a series of applications to delay the extradition dates of several fugitives being approved last week, with many of the crooks remaining in crowded prisons here until they can be flown home.