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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is the Home Office fit for purpose?

The Guardian reports on claims that the Home Office has been accused of being unfit for purpose and guilty of “shambolic incompetence” after letters written by Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, appeared to contradict what she told a parliamentary committee about when she became aware of the problems experienced by highly skilled migrants:

Nokes last week told Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, that she hadn’t had time to investigate revelations in the Guardian that at least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK were wrongly facing deportation.

Officials were citing a paragraph of the Immigration Rules designed in part to tackle terrorists and individuals judged to be a threat to national security under the controversial 322(5) section of the Immigration Act.

At the committee hearing last week, Cooper asked Nokes: “Why have you not looked into what is happening, to find out how many of these cases are serious fraud cases and how many involve ‘trivial mistakes’?” Nokes replied: “Because there have been only two working days since this issue was flagged up”.

However, letters written by Nokes and obtained by the Guardian appear to show she was aware of the issue in February. They also suggest that concerns about the use of 322(5) were among the first issues she was made aware of when she took up the ministerial role in January. Asked to respond, the Home Office declined to comment.

The claim that the Home Office was not fit for purpose was made by the then Home Secretary, John Reid twelve years ago. The Tony Blair Government, in which he served, was also obsessed with immigration. The question though has to be asked as to whether we should let Ministers off the hook so easily.

What if it is not the civil servants who are at fault at all, but the fact that politicians are asking them to do the impossible in meeting unachievable targets, and that in doing so are damaging our economy and destroying the lives of individuals and their families.

It is a controversial theory I know, but nevertheless it seems to fit all the facts.
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