The Home Office has come under the spotlight a number of times this year for a series of embarrassing contradictions and U-turns – exposing nothing less than a department in disarray.
The Windrush scandal broke in April, revealing that people who had been in the UK for decades had been wrongly targeted by immigration officials, with some detained and deported.
Shortly after, the then home secretary Amber Rudd claimed there were no deportation targets – only to admit less than 24 hours later that some immigration officers did use targets for the number of people they should deport. She resigned days later, admitting she had “inadvertently misled” MPs.
A second contradiction came when the Home Office announced that more than 60 people may had been wrongfully deported or removed from the UK – countering previous claims that there was “no evidence” any individuals had been deported.
The embarrassment deepened further when the department revealed more than 83 Windrush citizens could have been wrongfully deported from the UK.
Another humiliating U-turn came last month, when the department admitted that people have been wrongly denied UK status after refusing to provide DNA evidence, despite previously claiming the practice existed on an “entirely voluntary basis”.
Sajid Javid said the government had illegally demanded DNA evidence in family visa cases, with at least seven people denied the right to stay in Britain because they refused to provide samples to prove family ties.
This steady stream of ministerial errors has been punctuated by numerous dramatic U-turns on individual immigration cases, prompted only once the stories are reported in the media.
Prominent cases have included that of a US resident who was blocked from coming to the UK to see her seriously ill daughter because the Home Office was “not satisfied” her intentions were genuine. Within 12 hours of publication, the department reversed the decision and granted her a visa.
The decision to prevent six-year-old, UK-born Mohamed Bangoura from returning home to his mother following a holiday was also reversed, as was the case of Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, a 27-year-old Afghan man who was threatened with deportation despite having served in the British army.
These slip ups are occurring at a growing rate, with each having wide-ranging implications for the individuals caught up in the hostile environment machine. But there is little doubt that the issues have been bubbling under the surface for some years now.
In a sign of what was to come, MPs published a report in January warning that the government’s measures designed to reduce illegal immigration were too often based on “inaccurate and untested” information which could “undermine the credibility of the whole system”.
Campaigners and lawyers working with those affected have repeatedly warned of the chaos and disarray, and of an urgent need for “root and branch reform” in the Home Office.
It is clear now that, as the scandals and contradictions continue to emerge, cracks have formed in Theresa May’s self-proclaimed hostile environment – and they are spreading fast.
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