Thursday, 26 April 2018
Windrush Scandal – Home Office did set Targets for Deportations despite Rudd’s Denials
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, when grilled by the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, denied any targets were set for the removal of illegal immigrants from the UK. Evidence has now emerged that the Home Office did set a target in 2014-15 and increased it in 2015-16, as the BBC reports. A report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reveals that the target for ‘Voluntary Departures’ was raised from 120 to 160 per week. The Home Office said today that these targets have been abandoned.
‘Voluntary Departures’ do not refer to any choice or desire to leave the UK, but does mean that these people can get help with the cost of their travel out of the country, and avoids any late night raids to detain and deport them in an ‘involuntary’ fashion, which saves the Home Office money. Using this procedure became part and parcel of the new ‘hostile environment’ introduced by the prime minister, Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary.
Rudd will claim that she knew nothing of the targets set by Home Office officials, which may be true, but it is more likely Rudd knew exactly what was going on and turned a blind eye to the situation. This is how this Tory government operates, and is familiar to me from the time I spent working for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), as a Jobcentre adviser.
Jobcentre management became obsessed with increasing sanctions on benefit claimants with the change of government. When the coalition government was elected in 2010 it was made clear to officials that the government wanted to see more claimants sanctioned (have their benefits stopped) and local and regional sanction targets doubled over night. DWP ministers have always claimed that it does not set targets for sanctioning claimants.
This is only true in the sense that ministers did not request an increased target, but the goal of increasing sanctions was made clear to senior civil servants, with the method for achieving this left to officials, who in turn set local targets. What happened in the Home Office with increasing ‘voluntary departures’ by setting and increasing these targets, is exactly the same as the DWP did with sanctions targets on benefit claimants.
Another tactic that appears to have been used by the Home Office to increase deportations is also familiar to me from my time as a Jobcentre adviser. It is to remove the element of discretion from officials when dealing with applications to remain in the UK. The same thing happened to Jobcentre advisers when assessing whether sanctions were appropriate. Life is not black and white, and there can be good reasons why a claimant is late for an appointment or such like at the Jobcentre.
Discretion was removed from advisers and rules had to be strictly enforced, regardless of circumstances. Jobcentre advisers also ran the risk of being judged a ‘poor performer’ and even dismissed if they failed to reach the targets by not sanctioning the required number of claimants. I expect this is the case with Home Office officials and deportations too.
Rudd at the Home Affairs Select Committee and May at Prime Ministers Questions in the Commons yesterday made a great deal of the Home Office targeting ‘illegal’ immigrants, but that is besides the point with the Windrush scandal. These people are not in the UK illegally, but got caught up in the ‘hostile environment’ atmosphere.
If May hadn’t introduced this and Rudd hadn’t made it even tougher, then the Windrush mistakes would not have happened. Rudd, and ultimately May, have to take responsibility for this policy and accept that it is the root cause of this shameful episode.
May has tried to blame the destruction of Windrush landing cards in 2010, by the Home Office, on the previous Labour government. This doesn’t wash either. Regardless of when the decision was taken to do this, it was on her watch as Home Secretary, and she then knowing this to be the case, introduced the ‘hostile environment’ which required masses of documentary evidence from applicants. Before the ‘hostile environment’ existed, it was of less importance to retain these records.
Rudd will cling on as Home Secretary because if she resigned the logical extension would be for May, who introduced the ‘hostile environment’ would have to go as well. Ministers don’t ever take responsibility for anything that goes wrong these days, it is always someone else’s fault. No wonder the public has so little faith in politicians.