In a highly critical report on Immigration Enforcement, published on Friday 18 September 2020, the Public Accounts Committee has found Home Office immigration policies to be unfit for purpose, with Home Office officials apparently having no idea of where the budget is being spent or what effectiveness their ‘prejudicial’ policies have on the migrant population of the UK. The chair of the Committee commented “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.” The Home Office reportedly responded by stating that the Home Secretary agreed with the assessment made about historical issues within the Home Office. This is a complete failure to acknowledge that the issues are extremely serious, systemic and ongoing. It further highlights the rather truculent responses the government has towards immigration issues.
Thinking back only a few days earlier, there was a good news story in amongst the dire Covid and Brexit articles we are faced with on a daily basis. A Home Office charter flight was grounded, preventing the removal of a number of asylum seekers from Yemen and Syria from being returned to Madrid. It is worth noting that in the judgment on the case, the Judge found the situation so serious that he grounded the entire flight (rather than preventing the removal of select individuals), in order to avoid there being any risk that any of the individuals would be street homeless and destitute on the streets of Madrid, as had been the desperate lot of 11 Syrians who had been returned there earlier this month. The Judge made a reasoned and carefully considered decision, based on facts including that the individuals currently facing removal to Spain were almost certainly likely to face the same circumstances as those on the previous flight. The Home Secretary’s response was that she was ‘bitterly disappointed’ because the court decision meant they were ‘prevented from returning people who have no right to be here.’ The Home Secretary is perhaps forgetting that while there is EU legislation in place to govern which State will process a person’s asylum claim, there is also the long standing Refugee Convention (to which the UK is a signatory) which maintains the right of asylum to all people and allows anyone forced to flee their home countries to seek protection. The de-humanisation of those seeking asylum in the UK, and the attempted demeaning of those legal professionals who seek to protect them (on 27 August 2020 the Home Office’s permanent secretary conceded that officials should not have used the phrase “activist lawyers” in a promotional video posted on Twitter), smacks of a government that has lost sight of the democratic process, the judicial process and the Rule of Law. The report of the Public Accounts Committee certainly does nothing to improve the government’s reputation for incompetent and, in some circumstances, cruel mismanagement of the immigration services.