John Reid has opted to release up to 150 failed asylum seekers from custody rather than demand their immediate deportation
The bogus refugees were farcically set free to make room for migrants from the riot-wrecked Harmondsworth detention centre, in West London.
They were released from nine other detention centres across the country wearing electronic tags, or with instructions to report regularly to the authorities.
But, with all facing imminent removal from the UK, they have no incentive not to abscond. The worst possible scenario is they will be caught - and meet the same fate as if they abide by the rules.
Critics demanded to know why Mr Reid had not ordered urgent work to secure their deportation, rather than let them walk free.
But Mr Reid's officials insisted it was simply not possible to process all the bureaucracy and paperwork needed before a person can be kicked-out of the country to a short deadline.
The Conservatives said it was a damning indictment of the chaos within the removals system.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "If our immigration system wasn't in a state of such chaos and confusion many of these people wouldn't be here."
It came amid damaging revelations about the Government's response to the riot, which has caused millions of pounds of damage.
The Prison Service's crack Tornado riot-breaking team was not sent to Harmondsworth until five hours after a Gold Command Room was set up to control the chaos in the early hours of Wednesday.
And, even after they arrived, the guards spent an hour waiting around in vans before being given the order to re-take the west London centre.
If they had gone in sooner, the devastation could have been hugely reduced. The inmates - a mixture of foreign prisoners and failed asylum seekers - were instead allowed to run amok, smashing walls and ripping out sinks and toilets.
The final bill could top the £4 million cost of the last Harmondsworth riot, in 2004. If the level of damage had been reduced, Ministers may not have been forced to take the drastic decision to the 150 failed asylum seekers from elsewhere. By last night, 50 had already been released with plans in place for the remaining 100.
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