LONDON — A total of 633 EU nationals were held under U.K. immigration powers in the first three months of 2021, according to government data, a fall on previous years as coronavirus restrictions curbed travel.
The figure, part of the Home Office’s latest quarterly figures on immigration released Thursday, includes EU citizens who failed to meet immigration requirements and were held for more than 24 hours, as well as “a small number” of foreign national offenders leaving under the government’s Early Release Scheme, the department said.
The numbers held represent a fall on the same quarter of 2020, during which time 778 EU nationals were held under the powers. The Home Office said the coronavirus pandemic has had “a significant impact” on the U.K. immigration system, by reducing the number of immigrants arriving in the country but also limiting the department’s ability to return those without a right to enter the U.K.
The number of EU nationals entering detention in the first quarter of this year was also smaller than those held in the same period of 2019 and 2018.
The data comes after POLITICO reported on the plight of some EU nationals being detained at the border post-Brexit. The Home Office acknowledged that “an increasing proportion of those entering detention have been recent clandestine arrivals detained for short periods for processing.”
The department has instructed border officials to grant bail to detainees during the length of the pandemic “where appropriate,” in a bid to reduce the use of immigration removal centers following pressure from the European Commission, some EU countries and MEPs.
Overall, the number of people from around the world detained under U.K. immigration powers has been decreasing since reaching a peak in 2015, with nearly 13,000 entering detention in the year ending March 2021, the Home Office said.
CORRECTION: This article was updated on May 27 to correct the figures given for EU nationals held under immigration powers and provide further context on their circumstances.