In the Media

200 war criminals identified by Britain but only three deported

PUBLISHED May 9, 2012

Official figures show that the UK Border Agency has recommended that action be taken against more than 200 individuals accused of torture, genocide or crimes against humanity in the past 18 months alone.

But only a handful have been deported or turned away at the border, while some have been granted asylum after successfully arguing they would face retribution if they returned home.

It is unclear if any of the alleged warlords are being investigated by police, prompting fresh claims that Britain is a "safe haven" for soldiers in overseas conflicts. Last year private individuals were banned from starting criminal prosecutions for alleged war crimes, after a diplomatic spat with Israel.

Redress, a human rights pressure group, said: "A major concern is what is happening to those suspects. Does the UKBA refer them all to the Metropolitan Police for investigation with a view to seeing if they can be prosecuted here?

"Unless and until there are a significant number of prosecutions for these types of crimes suspects will continue treating the UK as a safe haven."

Michael McCann, chairman of the All-Party Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, agreed: "We need a frank exchange between the UKBA and police and we need ministers to provide straight answers to straight questions."

Last year it was disclosed that a special war crimes unit within the UK Border Agency had recommendation action against 495 individuals in the previous five years, with 383 remaining at large.

New figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act, show that between June 2010 and December 2011, the immigration agency identified 805 people worthy of initial investigation.

It recommended "adverse immigration action" against 207 of them, half of whom had been applying for asylum in Britain.

But some had got as far as applying for citizenship, suggesting they had been living in Britain for some time, with 66 refused.

Many of the suspects had come from notorious warzones including Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

The statistics show that 13 suspected war criminals were granted leave to remain on the grounds that, despite their involvement in violence, they would likely be tortured or killed if they returned to their home countries. Another two won the right to stay on human rights grounds after initially being considered for deportation.

It is claimed that 31 are subject to "ongoing" enforcement action but only three have suspected war criminals have actually been removed from Britain.

A further nine suspects were refused entry to the country, either because border officials stopped them or because the Home Secretary had obtained an order keeping them out.

A UKBA spokesman said: "We are determined to ensure the UK does not become a refuge for war criminals and have robust processes in place to identify and seek to remove anyone suspected of such a crime.

"If it is not possible to remove them immediately - for example, if we have been overruled by the courts - these individuals can now be subjected to stringent reporting and employment restrictions while we continue to seek their removal."