Home Office staff face history of race & migration training

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Lets see what happens.  I am sure all government departments have a race and diversity statement.  Does it really make much difference?  It is regularly the case that other considerations take precedence over issues of equality and discrimination.  We know of at least one case where the person who has advised on race and discrimination at an agency is being sued for discrimination! 

David Isaac the chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has resigned and does not seem to have much confidence that the government will do what is necessary, to deal with discrimination by governmental organisations.  Instructions on policy given to government agencies and the Government Legal Department are frequently unethical.   Agencies are told to single-mindedly pursue a particular course action with little or no concerns about issues of discrimination.

Following recommendations made by an internal inquiry into the Windrush scandal, all Home Office staff are set to undergo training in the history of race and UK immigration. The training comes as part of an improvement plan to change the culture of the government agency, so that it’s more people-focused and not case-focused.

UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, described the series of measures as an ‘unprecedented programme of change’ in an effort to make the beleaguered Home Office ‘fit for the future’. However, some remain sceptical of the Home Office’s willingness to change its ways.

Chief executive of charity Freedom from Torture, Sonya Sceats, urged the government to provide ‘greater clarity’ on what the plan involves. Ms Sceats said: “The plan is comprehensive and ambitious in many respects. However, some aspects, like the appointment of a migrants’ commissioner require greater clarity and pace.”

“If the department is to be successful in its efforts to rebuild public trust, these are fundamentals,” Sceats added.

Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into Home Office immigration policies

The planned training comes amid an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation into how Home Office UK immigration policies comply with equality laws. As part of its inquiry, the EHRC has suggested that the Home Office makes a series of improvements, including its understanding of how its actions affect ethnic minorities.

Priti Patel said: “I am leading an unprecedented programme of change to build a Home Office fit for the future, that serves every part of the community it serves. The Windrush generation have waited too long for justice and my resolve to deliver for them and their descendants is absolute. This is the first part of our plan to deliver meaningful change.”

Published on 30 September, the Home Office’s improvement plan includes working with academics to deliver a training programme for all of the government department’s personnel. It’s understood that the training will include Britain’s colonial history, the history of black Britain and UK immigration.

The training programme is scheduled to be in place by June 2021, with the Home Office promising to publish figures on the number of staff completing the training every year, including senior-level civil servants.

Hostile environment policy review

The programme also contain details of Priti Patel’s pledge to review Britain’s ‘hostile environment’ policy – a measure recommended by Wendy Williams in the ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’, which also made 30 other recommendations.

The Home Secretary said: “UK immigration policy must be ‘strong’, but ‘just’. However, I promise to fix any problems found.”

Meanwhile, Patel’s two permanent secretaries have been tasked with overseeing ‘major cultural change’ within the Home Office by the end of 2021. It’s understood that further training will also be given to top officials on advising government ministers.

The improvement plan will also include a review of the role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

Lessons Learned report

Wendy Williams’ Lessons Learned report gave a damning assessment of Home Office conduct in its treatment of Windrush migrants, saying the circumstances surrounding the scandal were ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. Williams said victims were let down by ‘systemic operational failings’ within the Home Office.

In her report, Williams said: “The government department demonstrated institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation.”

Following the release of the report, Priti Patel said that it stopped ‘marginally short’ of branding the Home Office ‘institutionally racist.’

Ms Sceats said: “Parts of the Home Office’s improvement plan are laudable. But justice for Windrush victims will not be fully served until the hostile environment is scrapped and the virulent anti-migrant politics that drove its creation is rooted out once and for all.”

Home Office should be more transparent

Ms Williams urged the Home Office to be more transparent and ‘open itself up’ to greater external scrutiny in order to implement widespread cultural change. Under the improvement plan, Williams will review the progress made by the Home Office after 12 months.

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