UK immigration officers deployed in 25 local authorities

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A Freedom of Information (FoI) request reported on by The Guardian has revealed that at least 25 UK immigration officers are currently deployed across local authorities in Britain. Child social services are among several local authority departments where on-site immigration agents have been deployed by the Home Office.


The immigration officers are understood to be part of an ‘enhanced checking service’, which includes providing information to the Home Office about people’s right to work in the UK and their eligibility for council services. However, the Home Office arrangement with local authorities has sparked serious concerns among immigrant advocacy groups.

Several groups have blasted the practice of deploying UK immigration officers across local authorities, arguing that it will stop the most vulnerable from seeking support for fear of facing immigration enforcement action. Officials deployed within local authorities reportedly have the power to pass on the details of undocumented immigrants to the Home Office.  


Freedom of Information request

Records obtained under an FoI show that 25 local authorities have a sleeper immigration officer deployed. It’s understood that they work across several local authority services, including departments dealing with vulnerable people – such as children – plus those dealing with homelessness, social care and mental health support.

Many local authorities have had an immigration officer within their ranks since 2016, including Transport for London (TfL) and HS2.

Local authorities signing up for the ‘service’ are deploying UK immigration officers in child social care teams specifically, but documents reveal that officers are ‘expected to work across a variety of local authority departments’.

Details of on-site immigration officers working across local government were first reported by The Observer in early 2019. Once exposed, the practice was met by a furious backlash from some MPs, immigrant advocacy groups and the public, leading many local authorities to eject officers from their ranks.

Meanwhile, the Home Office removed details of the service from government websites. However, the service has remained in operation under the radar. In response to the FoI, it was found that at the end of 2021, 12 local authorities – plus HS2 and TfL – still had UK immigration officers working within their ranks on behalf of the Home Office.


Keeping children safe a priority

Commenting on the practice, the shadow minister for UK immigration, Stephen Kinnock, said: “Keeping children safe is an absolute priority and there should be no action that puts that at risk.”

“The Home Office must explain what exactly these officers are doing and how they can guarantee that their work does not deny vulnerable children the support or protection they need,” Mr Kinnock added.

However, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Mary Atkinson, described the FoI findings as ‘chilling’. She said: “It’s chilling to hear that government have been entrenching hostility into the services that families rely on for help and protection.”

“Just like the hostile environment in healthcare, we know this practice spreads fear in our communities, and prevents people from seeking support. It’s time the government ended this dangerous and discriminatory approach – every resident should be able to put their trust in local councils at times of need,” Ms Atkinson added.


Template agreement

According to The Guardian report, there is a ‘template agreement’ in place between the Home Office and several local authorities, which reveals the extent of the work of UK immigration officials deployed across council services.

The template document, which is marked ‘official sensitive’, states: “The officer will work with the following teams within the customer’s organisation; housing needs; homelessness and immigration team; children’s services leaving care; adult social care; adult mental health services.”

“The officer will conduct real-time immigration status checks to support the customer’s decision-making in relation to the individual’s or family’s eligibility for support or benefits and advise on the implications of those status checks,” the document adds.

The advice provided by immigration officers deployed across local authority services includes providing information about a person’s right to work in the UK and their eligibility for council services.

Under the Home Office’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy, those without the right to remain in Britain can be refused access to a range of public services, including housing. The template document states that ‘officers are also deployed to advise on voluntary returns’, whereby people return to their country of citizenship without forceful removal.


Local authorities using the service

According to The Guardian report, at the end of 2021, 12 local authorities still had UK immigration officers in their ranks working on behalf of the Home Office, including

  • Barking & Dagenham

  • Barnet

  • Bexley

  • Enfield

  • Essex

  • Greenwich

  • Hertfordshire

  • Hillingdon

  • Slough

  • Sutton

  • Thurrock

  • Newham

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Local authorities can request dedicated support on immigration-related matters, with advice on specific cases where appropriate, but this is voluntary and aims to help vulnerable migrants, particularly single mothers and families with small children, to resolve their status.”

“It is usually used to help those who are destitute access appropriate support. Individual decisions are made by local authorities rather than immigration staff and to suggest otherwise is wrong,” the spokesperson added. can help with Sponsor Licences

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