Sanwar Ali comment:
There seems to be a culture of covering up misconduct and dishonesty. UK Visa and Immigration at the Home Office that also has to deal with vulnerable people has to be seen to be treating people fairly. Instead, there are numerous allegations of racial discrimination and institutional racism.
There is also a shocking allegation that the Home Office has a system to make sure that you do not have a fair hearing, if you appeal against a decision of theirs. Will anything be done about this or will the status quo continue indefinitely? If Brexit does eventually happen it will become even more important that the UK Justice System and UK Government deal with failings in the system.
UK immigration is at the centre of nearly all Home Office misconduct investigations, according to a report by The Guardian. Over three years, 626 complaints filed concerning serious misconduct were in relation to immigration matters, 210 of the 626 allegations were corroborated.
While the Home Office is responsible for policing and counter-terrorism, a staggering 96% of the department’s internal inquiries centre on immigration matters. A number of investigations have verified allegations made against Home Office staff, either by fellow department personnel or the general public.
The Home Office’s professional standards unit (PSU) deals with the most serious misconduct allegations made against teams or individual personnel within the department, or any contractors working for the Home Office, for example in UK immigration detention centres.
There is s general complaints process in place for minor matters, which are not investigated by the PSU.
Serious misconduct allegations against UK Visa, Home Office
The PSU tackles allegations of crimes relating to assault, fraud, harassment, racism, sexual assault, theft and any other behaviour that is ‘deemed likely to bring the Home Office into disrepute.’
A response to a freedom of information request, submitted by The Guardian, reveals that over the past three years, the PSU has conducted 626 internal inquiries. 210 allegations of severe misconduct have been substantiated.
The freedom of information request specified that 96.4% of misconduct allegations investigated focused on borders, immigration and citizenship, with only a handful of inquiries relating to areas such as counter-terrorism and policing.
UK visas, immigration and nationality department not fit for purpose
Diane Abbott, the UK’s shadow home secretary, claims that the findings show the Home Office’s immigration and nationality department to be ‘unfit for purpose’ and demanded an immediate review.
Under its powers, the PSU can request witness statements, CCTV footage, notebook entries, texts and voicemails left on Home Office-issued mobile phones. The PSU can refer matters investigated to the police or other agencies where necessary.
According to Home Office guidance, issues investigated by the PSU are those “considered to have the potential for serious reputational damage to the Home Office, which could result in legal action against the department. Cases will be assessed by the PSU to determine the risk, if any, of adverse publicity.”
Former UK immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, revealed to a parliamentary panel that there had been 25 allegations of sexual assault made by detainees against staff in UK immigration removal centres (IRC) between 2014 and 2018.
In response to a parliamentary question, Nokes said: “Any allegations of serious misconduct made by a detainee against staff in an IRC are also referred to the Home Office PSU for investigation.”
The Guardian asked for information about recommended actions to be taken against individual members of Home Office personnel, specified in PSU inquiry reports. The request was rejected on the basis that each report would need to be assessed individually, which would require more work than freedom of information request time limits allow.
However, Home Office guidance specifies that the PSU’s ‘Lessons Learned’ team monitors progress made on implementing recommendations contained in PSU reports, while a Lesson Learned report is produced internally on a quarterly basis.
Abbott said: “These figures demonstrate just how deeply rooted ‘hostile environment’ practices are in the Tory Home Office. The Windrush scandal has taught them nothing as internal investigations pile up with no real consequence and no substantial change.
“This culture is destroying lives and families every day and cannot be allowed to continue. The immigration and nationality department of the Home Office is clearly not fit for purpose, and the government must call an immediate review into its continued failings.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We expect the highest levels of integrity and professional conduct from both staff and contractors. The number of complaints investigated by the professional standards unit has dropped by more than 25% since 2016-17.”
“Borders, immigration and citizenship system teams have the greatest interaction with members of the public, so it is to be expected that there are higher numbers of complaints than for other non-public facing Home Office teams,” the spokesperson added.
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