Home Office shows 'little concern over damage caused by immigration failures'

18 September 2020, 00:00 | Updated: 18 September 2020, 00:05

A scathing report by MPs has criticised the Home Office over its attitude towards immigration enforcement
A scathing report by MPs has criticised the Home Office over its attitude towards immigration enforcement. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Home Office has been accused of basing immigration policies on "anecdote, assumption and prejudice" instead of evidence, and having no idea of the effect they have on migrants.

According to a scathing review from the Public Accounts Committee, the government department shows far too little concern over the damage caused by its failures on "both the illegal and legitimate migrant populations".

Published on Friday, the findings said the Home Office has "no idea" what its £400 million immigration enforcement annual spending achieves, and instead appears to formulate policies not on evidence but on "anecdote, assumption and prejudice".

Committee chair Meg Hillier said: "The Home Office has frighteningly little grasp of the impact of its activities in managing immigration.

"It shows no inclination to learn from its numerous mistakes across a swathe of immigration activities - even when it fully accepts that it has made serious errors.

"It accepts the wreckage that its ignorance and the culture it has fostered caused in the Windrush scandal - but the evidence we saw shows too little intent to change, and inspires no confidence that the next such scandal isn't right around the corner."

Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier slammed the Home Office in response to the report
Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier slammed the Home Office in response to the report. Picture: PA Images

Despite "years of public and political debate and concern", the department still does not know the size of the illegal population in the UK, the report said.

The committee reiterated criticism previously raised by the National Audit Office about the department not estimating the illegal population in the UK since 2005.

The latest report said the Home Office had "no answer" to concerns that "potentially exaggerated figures calculated by others could inflame hostility towards immigrants".

The department does not know whether hostile environment policies have deterred illegal migration, it added.

A lack of evidence and "significant" lack of diversity at senior levels has created "blind spots" in the organisation, the report said, describing the Windrush scandal as demonstrating the "damage such a culture creates".

The department also does not know why so many migrants were released from detention because they could not deport them as planned last year, the report said.

It also warned the Home Office was "unprepared for the challenges the UK's exit from the EU presents to its immigration enforcement operations", adding that the department had been unable to provide evidence, when asked in July, that it had begun discussions with EU counterparts on international operations.

The committee said it was not convinced the department is "sufficiently prepared" to properly safeguard the existing, legal immigrant population in the UK, while also implementing a new immigration system and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scathing report claims the Home Office and Home Secretary Priti Patel could not provide any evidence about preparedness for leaving the EU
The scathing report claims the Home Office and Home Secretary Priti Patel could not provide any evidence about preparedness for leaving the EU. Picture: PA Images

It gave the Home Office six months to come up with a detailed plan to make sure its decision-making is led by data and evidence so it can analyse its work, particularly with regard to tackling illegal migration.

Minnie Rahman, campaigns and public affairs manager for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the report paints a "very accurate picture of a clueless, careless and cold-hearted Home Office.

"It is but the latest in a slew of reports to slam the Home Office's working culture and practices."

The charity echoed the committee's calls for change, adding: "Immigration policy and practice must be based on robust evidence, proper staff training and a new culture of respect and care for individuals."

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