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Friday, September 18, 2020

Is the Home Office fit for purpose?

Anybody with any experience of dealing with the Home Office and the government's immigration regime will be unsurprised at the criticism levelled at them by the Public Accounts Committee.

As the Guardian reports, the Parliamentary Committee concluded that the department drew up immigration policies on “anecdote, assumption and prejudice” instead of relying on evidence. They added that Priti Patel’s department was unaware of the damage caused by policy failures on “both the illegal and legitimate migrant populations”:

In a highly critical report published on Friday, the committee said in summary that Home Office’s officials had “no idea” what its £400m annual spending on immigration enforcement achieves.

“We are concerned that if the department does not make decisions based on evidence, it instead risks making them on anecdote, assumption and prejudice,” the cross-party committee concluded.

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, 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.”

The paper says that the committee was examining the role and function of Immigration Enforcement, in light of a critical National Audit Office report, which was released in June:

The report said that despite “years of public and political debate and concern”, the department still did not know the size of the illegal population in the UK.

The committee reiterated criticism by the NAO, saying the department had not estimated the illegal population in the UK since 2005 and had “no answer” to concerns that “potentially exaggerated figures calculated by others could inflame hostility towards immigrants”.

Some of the report examined the legacy of the Windrush scandal, and concluded that the internal culture that created the hostile environment still remains.

The Home Office does not know whether hostile environment policies deterred illegal migration, while a lack of evidence and significant lack of diversity at senior levels has created blind spots in the organisation, the report said.

“Only one member of its executive committee came from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background. The department described the benefits of greater diversity at senior levels for its decision-making, leadership and governance, but acknowledged diversity as being its biggest issue,” the report said.

It is little wonder that some of those who work with immigrants consider the Home Office to be clueless, careless and cold-hearted.
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