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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP calls for independent inquiry into the Home Office

2 May 2019

Following new allegations, Jean Lambert MEP has written to the Home Secretary calling for an urgent, independent and far-reaching inquiry into Home Office conduct.
 
Earlier this week, whistleblowers raised some serious claims about chaos, incompetence and managerial misconduct within the government department [1].
 
This is just the latest negative report, following a string of Home Office errors over the past 12 months. These include illegally deporting EU rough sleepers [2], losing vital personal immigration papers [3], wrongly trying to deport skilled migrants [4], glitches within the new Settled Status scheme for EU nationals, accusing overseas students of cheating in English language tests [5], and the continuing, shambolic treatment of Windrush victims [6].
 
The letter has been copied to Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.
 
Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP and the Green Party’s migration spokesperson says: “In recent years, the Home Office has been at the centre of a catalogue of disasters – tearing families apart and turning lives upside down. While its representatives try to brush these off as a series of unfortunate mistakes, the new allegations of managerial bullying of caseworkers and incentives to reject asylum applications suggest this is more than incompetence – it’s deep-rooted, deliberate and unethical malpractice.
 
I’m calling for an urgent, independent and far-reaching inquiry into the Home Office’s activities and conduct. When Sajid Javid was appointed as Home Secretary, exactly one year ago, he promised to create a ‘fair and humane’ immigration system. If he was remotely sincere in this promise, he would immediately agree to conduct a probe into the department to make sure it is acting legally, ethically and in line with international human rights standards.”
 
Read the letter in full below, or in PDF format here.
 

Dear Home Secretary,

​As you will be aware, barely a day passes without new reports of administrative blunders, data breaches, unlawful decisions or human rights violations from your ministerial department – the Home Office. Would you not agree that it is now time for a genuine enquiry as to how the department is run?
 
In April 2019 alone, the Home Office was forced to apologise after accidentally sharing 500 private email addresses during the launch of a Windrush compensation scheme – days later making the same mistake with the email addresses of 240 EU nationals. It also now faces legal action and a formal investigation by the National Audit Office after wrongly accusing some 34,000 students of cheating in a government-approved English test, causing more than 1,000 to be detained or deported.
 
These are symptomatic of a much more extensive catalogue of disasters over the past 12 months: illegally deporting EU rough sleepers, losing or even deliberately destroying personal documentation, wrongly trying to deport hundreds of skilled workers, and – of course – a spate of examples of malpractice relating to the Windrush generation, which has already borne the brunt of Home Office incompetence. This list goes on.
 
Every time one of these stories hits the headlines, I get a sense of déjà vu. Occasionally a Home Office spokesperson stoically apologises for the mistake, or the department swiftly and silently backtracks – as in the case of a 35-year-old Iraqi-Kurd, Najat Ibrahim Ismail, who was set to be cruelly deported this week against the best interests of his children.
 
However, I was particularly alarmed this week to read new reports of “overworked, under-skilled, bullied and highly stressed caseworkers” within your Dublin Cessation Team (DCT) which determines which EU Member State is responsible for an asylum claim – a system which I have sought to make more fair, humane and transparent during my time as an MEP.
 
The toxic working environment in DCT has is clearly having an adverse effect on its day-to-day activities. It is slowing down decision-making which leaves asylum applicants in limbo for years, with many detained illegally in immigration removal centres. Meanwhile, personal performance targets which give caseworkers 555 minutes to refuse an asylum application but just 222 minutes to grant one, are completely nonsensical and incentivise rejection. Such policies are tearing families apart and turning lives upside down.
 
These latest claims by whistleblowers raise new, serious questions about the Home Office’s ability to make fair, lawful decisions in line with international human rights standards and its treaty obligations.
 
The issue is particularly pressing given that, should Brexit go ahead, the Government plans to subject millions of EU nationals to the chronically malfunctioning system currently in place for non-EU nationals.
 
This week marks one year since your appointment as Home Secretary. It has been a full 12 months since you promised to create a “fair and humane” immigration system. This has clearly not been delivered. The Home Office continues to propagate a “hostile environment” – not just for migrants and asylum seekers, but for its own staff members.
 
It’s time to face facts – the Home Office is no longer fit-for-purpose. That’s why I am calling for an urgent, independent and far-reaching inquiry into the department’s actions and conduct.
 
If you hope to live up to your bold promises, shake off the Home Office’s toxic reputation and rebuild confidence in your institution, I trust that you will kick-start this process in the coming weeks.
 
Yours sincerely,

Jean Lambert
​London’s Green Party MEP

CC:  Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee

 

Notes:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/28/home-office-chaos-and-incompetence-leads-to-unlawful-detentions-claim-whistleblowers

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44093868

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/23/home-office-tried-to-deport-300-skilled-migrants-under-terrorism-law

[4] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/eu-citizens-unable-to-use-settlement-scheme-as-new-system-overwhelmed-on-first-day-a4105186.html

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/26/home-office-faces-legal-action-over-english-test-cheating-claims

[6] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47256003