The Home Office admits it deported twice as many children to dangerous countries as it thought it had

The government has deported over twice as many 18-year-olds to dangerous countries as it previously thought, according to an embarrassing admission from a Home Office minister.

James Brokenshire had originally said that just 1,616 asylum-seeking children were returned to Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Albania when they turned 18. But according to a correction released today, the real figure is 3,750.

The government has long operated a deportation programme at 18 for some of the asylum-seeking children who come to the UK. Instead of granting the children of war-torn countries like Afghanistan asylum, they are often given leave to remain as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child. Then, when they turn 18, that status ends and they have to regulate their stay. Many have their asylum claims at this stage rejected.

This technique has become increasingly popular at the Home Office. Only six unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were rejected when they turned 18 in 2006, but the number grew and grew. By 2010, it was 870. It stayed at that level for a few years before declining slowly to 374 in 2014.

The figures released today include those young people and also those who arrive in the UK within six months of their 18th birthday. These children are not granted leave to remain as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child, but instead just a standard temporary leave to remain.

Many of the young people who are deported at 18 grew up in the UK for as long as they can remember and do not know anyone in their country of birth. They are then shipped back to war-ravaged states such as Afghanistan, whose own ministers have explicitly told British officials there is no way they can guarantee their safety. Once returned, there is typically very little UK government assistance on the other end. Most of the work is done by the Refugee Support Network.

Brokenshire originally said that 791 young people had been deported to Afghanistan. The real figure is 2,018. He said 576 had been deported to Albania. The real figure is 1,002. He said 205 had been deported to Iraq. The real figure is 657. He said 40 had been deported to Iran. The real figure is 68. There was also one additional deportation to Libya, bringing the total for that country to four. The only accurate figure was for Syria, where one young person had been deported.