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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
At-a-glance: Home Office woes
New Home Secretary John Reid has pledged to "sort out" the Home Office following a series of controversies in the past month. Here is a rundown of the troubles afflicting the department:

25 APRIL 2006

The Home Office's woes begin when it admits more than 1,000 foreign criminals were released from prison between 1999 and March 2006 without being considered for deportation.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is told just four days before the public that murderers and rapists were among those released - and more than three weeks after Mr Reid's predecessor Charles Clarke was made aware.

Mr Clarke says he offered to resign as home secretary over the issue, something later denied by Downing Street.

28 APRIL

Mr Clarke reveals that five of the released criminals who had been convicted of serious offences have committed new crimes since their release, including violence and drugs offences. One of them is facing rape allegations.

Mr Clarke insists he will stay in his job to repair the situation.

1 MAY

It emerges that it took Mr Clarke three weeks to tell the prime minister that serious criminals were among the prisoners not considered for deportation. The Home Office says it briefed Mr Blair when it could give him full details.

3 MAY

Mr Clarke promises new laws to make it a presumption that any foreigners convicted of an imprisonable offence will be deported automatically unless there are special circumstances.

He says deportation action is being started against 70 of the most serious offenders but the Home Office has only accounted for 32 of them. The Tories say the government has lost control.

5 MAY

Mr Clarke is sacked as home secretary and refuses the offer of another cabinet post. Defence Secretary John Reid is named as his successor.

8 MAY

The new home secretary revises the number of serious offenders freed without being deported from 90 to at least 150. And he says the final figure could end up being "several hundred" if armed robbers are included in the category of serious offenders.

15 MAY

Mr Reid reveals that one murderer is among the freed criminals still at large. He again changes the figure for the number of serious offenders on the list and says there are 179, with 81 of them in the government's control.

The new home secretary says 880 of the total 1,023 cases have been considered for deportation. There has been an initial decision to deport in 649 cases.

16 MAY

The head of removals at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), David Roberts, admits he has not got the "faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants there are in the UK.

He also tells the Commons home affairs committee no effort is made to trace individual illegal immigrants, unless they are thought to pose a threat to national security. He says resources are better targeted on firms who employ illegal immigrants.

Another official tells the committee National Insurance numbers have been given to people without checking their immigration status - a situation the Tories say "beggars belief".

17 MAY

In stormy exchanges at prime minister's questions in the Commons, Conservative leader David Cameron says Mr Roberts' admissions - and the foreign prisoner deportation debacle - show the government is in "paralysis".

Mr Blair shocks observers on all sides of the debate by saying that in his view all foreign prisoners should be deported regardless of the dangers they face in their home nation.

18 MAY

Despite Tony Blair insisting at the previous day's question time in the Commons there were no official figures on illegal immigrants in the UK, immigration minister Tony McNulty says a "ballpark" figure would be 310,000 to 570,000, based on information from the 2001 census.

Under pressure from the BBC's Jeremy Paxman, Mr McNulty claims it will take 10 years to deport them all from the UK - although experts later criticise the minister's logic, saying it assumes a static number of immigrants and that is based on out-of-date numbers.

19 MAY

The home office's woes deepen as it emerges five Nigerian illegal immigrants have been working as cleaners in an Immigration and Nationality Directorate office.

The Home Office initially says the men were arrested when they turned up for their first day at work, but the company employing them, Techclean, says they have been working there for months and, in the case of one man, five years.

Techclean said the five men appeared to have "circumvented" its own safeguards.

20 MAY

As if the Home Office's problems with illegal immigrants were not enough, it emerges more than 20 convicted murderers have absconded from Leyhill open prison, near Bristol, in the past five years.

Six rapists were also among those to have absconded from the prison since 1999.

The figures follow a BBC investigation which showed more than 300 inmates had absconded from the prison in the past three years.

In a separate development, Labour Party treasurer and TGWU deputy leader Jack Dromey calls for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

21 MAY

The spotlight turns on the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), after it emerges 2,700 innocent people have been wrongly labelled criminals - with some being turned down for jobs as a result.

The Home Office said the errors arose when personal details were similar to those of people with a conviction, but were "a tiny proportion of cases".

22 MAY

Tony McNulty is stripped of his responsibilities as immigration minister.

The mini reshuffle, which sees Liam Byrne taking the immigration brief and Mr McNulty becoming police minister, comes just two weeks after a full cabinet reshuffle.

The Home Office insists it is about making sure the right people are in the right jobs.

But it comes after further damaging revelations about the IND, including that an immigration official has been suspended over allegations he offered to help a teenage asylum seeker with her application in return for sex.

It is also disclosed that 223 foreign nationals arrested in counter-terrorism operations were allowed to remain in Britain as asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, the head of the prison service, Phil Wheatley, admits around 700 prisoners absconded from open prisons last year.




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