MPs have accused the Home Office of making decisions on immigration policy on the basis of ‘anecdote, assumption and prejudice’. A damning new report from the Public Affairs Committee criticised the ‘disturbingly weak evidence base’ used to assess the impact of its immigration enforcement activity.
According to the new report, the Home Office could neither provide figures on the financial and social impact of illegal immigration, nor show any evidence to support its strategies on issues ranging from tackling organised immigration crime to receiving good quality legal advice. They argued that it had no idea as to the the effectiveness of its £400 million pound a year spending.
‘The Home Office has frighteningly little grasp of the impact of its activities in managing immigration,’ commented chair of the committee Meg Hillier. ‘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.’
Meg Hiller, Public Affairs Committee
According to the report, despite Home Office policies to ‘reduce the size of the illegal population and the harm it causes’, the department ‘still does not know the size of the illegal population or have a clear grasp of the harm the illegal population causes’ with the last estimates of the illegal population in the UK taking place in 2005.
MPs found that more then six out of 10 of those detained for removal by the Home Office in 2019 (62%) were released, an increase of 6% from 2019. Whilst witnesses to the inquiry from the Home Office attempted to blame the high percentage on an increase in asylum claims, this explanation appears to have been rejected by the Committee. Instead the MPs stated that the Home Office did ‘not really understand why this figure is so high or what it can do to ensure these returns are completed as planned’.
The report also found that the Home Office was prepared neither for Brexit nor a second wave of COVID-19 in the UK. The MPs said they had been provided with no evidence that the Home Office had begun discussions either with EU partners or internally to prepare the possible impact Brexit will have on the return of those who arrive illegally via the EU transport hubs, creating a ‘real risk that EU exit will actually make it more difficult to remove foreign national offenders’.
Meanwhile, MPs warned that the Home Office’s visa policy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis ‘did not take seriously the risks of making life-changing decisions on people’s futures based on incorrect data’, drawing parallels to the Windrush scandal.
Whilst it was reported that the Home Office was aware of the need to learn lessons from Windrush, chair of the committee Meg Hillier said that ‘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’.
Minnie Rahman, chair of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told the Guardian said that the report painted a ‘very accurate picture of a clueless, careless and cold-hearted Home Office’.