Is an illegal immigrant reported to the authorities every six minutes?
"Government database flooded with tip-offs over illegal immigrants."
Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2012
"One tip-off every six minutes to the Government's sprawling database of illegal immigrants at large in the UK"
Daily Mail, 17 May 2012
Today both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that a new government database was being "flooded" with thousands of complaints about illegal immigrants, around 230 every day.
The 'National Allegations Database' is supposedly designed to store intelligence from the public and employers about suspected illigal immigrants in the UK.
Figures from the National Allegations Database will not be fully launched - according to the reports - until July this year. So where did the papers get their figures on tip-offs from?
Full Fact contacted the UK Border Agency (UKBA), who informed us that the papers had gained their information from written evidence provided by Rob Whiteman, UKBA's Chief Executive, to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday this week.
According to the evidence he provided to the committee, between 9 December 2011 and 29 March 2012 approximately 25,600 allegations were received by the UK Border Agency.
The period in question covers 111 days, or about 30.33 per cent of the year. If the figure were representative of an entire year, then we could expect 84,400 allegations to be made over the course of the year. This is indeed 230 per day, or one every six minutes.
The Mail does seem to have slightly over-stated the annual figure saying that Mr Whiteman's figure was "the equivalent of 100,000 allegations every year." This either represents some very generous rounding or a slip of the calculator.
Of these 25,600 allegations 16,000 or 62.5 per cent were sent to teams within UKBA for further investigation. No action was taken on the other 9,600 because either the information had been provided previously, the individual did not provide enough information to follow it up, or the information they provided had previously been found to be false.
In his evidence he also said that between 1 December and 31 March 2011 (we presume he meant 2012) there were approximately 900 "allegation based enforcement visits" which took place. These led to the arrest of 700 individuals for a variety of offences.
In his evidence Mr Whiteman stresses:
"It should be noted that the offence an individual has been arrested for may not relate to the allegation raised in the first instance, and it may also be the case that the person arrested at the address is not related to the initial allegation."
This point was not picked up by either the Telegraph or the Daily Mail.
Whether or not these preliminary figures show the true scale of illegal immigration we cannot say, as the National Allegation Database will not become operational until July. What is clear is that so far a significant number of people have made complaints about illegal immigrants to UKBA over a period of around four months and a majority of these have been deemed appropriate for further inquiry.
Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have accurately reported the evidence provided by Rob Whiteman to the Home Affairs Committee which shows that 25,600 allegations were received by UKBA about illegal immigration. This does work out to around 230 a day. However a final judgment cannot be made until after the database becomes fully operational in July.