Britain can only afford to deport foreign terrorists who are hiding behind human rights laws to two countries at a time, a major review has found.
Jihadis who pose a threat to the UK cannot be handed over to a host of countries including Syria and Libya because they are war-torn.
Even where countries are willing to take ISIS-inspired terrorists back and give them a fair trial, the process is so bureaucratic the Home Office can only deal with two countries at a time, it was claimed.
The findings were contained in a long-awaited report into the Deportations With Assurances (DWA) scheme, ordered by then Home Secretary Theresa May four years ago.
The scheme emerged out of the ten-year legal battle to get hate preacher Abu Qatada booted out of the UK, but the review found it is at a ‘low ebb’.
Hate preacher Abu Qatada, pictured in Jordan in September 2014, was booted out of Britain after a decade-long legal battle. The protracted case spawned the ‘deportations with assurances’ scheme to kick suspected terrorists out of Britain
He was eventually deported after Jordan signed a treaty which guaranteed he would get a fair trial, and the scheme was rolled out to other countries and jihadis who posed a risk to Britain’s national security.
But serous questions have been raised over its usefulness after it emerged just eleven people, not including Qatada, have been deported through it – nine to Algeria and two to Jordan.
Terrorism expert Professor Clive Walker, who co-authored the report, said around 40 suspected terrorists have used human rights laws to stay in the UK.
And he warned that given the ‘increasing travel to Iraq and Syria for terrorism purposes….this figure could now markedly increase’.
David Anderson QC, the government’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation who helped write the report, said the scheme is at a ‘low ebb’.
And he revealed he was told in 2014 ‘the Home Office only had the resources to contemplate the use of DWA in a maximum of two countries at any one time’.
He pointed out the scheme has faced a barrage of attacks from NGOs and charities who have mounted a string of challenges against the UK’s efforts to deport dangerous jihadis.
This has meant that UK government officials have had to plough time, money and resources into fighting these legal challenges and monitoring the scheme.
Mr Anderson and Prof walker’s review backed the scheme, with the pair concluding that ‘DWA can play a significant role in counter-terrorism, especially in prominent and otherwise intractable cases which are worth the cost and effort, but it will be delivered effectively and legitimately in international law only if laborious care is taken’.
Theresa May, pictured in the Downing Street garden today with members of the UK women’s rugby team, ordered the review into DWA arrangements in 2013 while she was still Home Secretary. It found that the process is so legally complicated and drawn out tat very few deportations have been ordered under it
Just six countries have entered into arrangements for DWA – Libya, Ethiopia, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Jordan. But the first three of these have been ruled out due to political instability.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Deportation with assurances (DWA) remains a valuable policy which allows us to remove those who threaten to do us harm while meeting international human rights obligations.
‘We are very grateful to David Anderson QC for his report and we are pleased with his recognition that the UK has taken the lead in developing rights-compliant procedures.
‘Keeping the public safe is our primary duty and DWA is one of a range of powers available to disrupt terrorists.’
The Home office stressed there has never been a problem with funding the DWA scheme and that they have dealt with at least four countries simultaneously in the past.