Week of criticisms and revelations over Home Office’s handling of migrant crisis

The Home Office’s response to the migrant crisis has been the focus of a series of critical reports.

21 July 2022

The Home Office’s response to the migrant crisis has been the focus of a series of critical reports and revelations about its policies this week.

The latest findings, from the chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal, looked at how the government department initially processes people when they arrive on the Kent coast.

They were published against a backdrop of several other damning findings, as well as rising crossing numbers and court disclosures about the controversial Rwanda policy.

Cumulative successful arrivals in the UK by people crossing the English Channel in small boats
(PA Graphics)

Here are the developments so far:

– Monday

The Commons Home Affairs Committee found there was “no evidence” the Rwanda policy was acting as a deterrent.

Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel pulled out of being questioned by MPs and then declined the committee’s requests to appear in front of them before Parliament’s summer recess.

More than 15,000 people were recorded arriving in the UK in 2022 so far – almost double the number recorded this time last year (7,735).

– Tuesday

A High Court hearing revealed the Foreign Office had advised against the Government sending migrants to Rwanda over human rights concerns.

Several asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid are challenging the legality of the Home Office policy, with the next court hearings due in September and October.

The first deportation flight was grounded in June amid legal challenges and subsequent court hearings have raised the prospect this may not be attempted again until the winter.

Some migrants issued with Rwanda removal directions have already been released from immigration detention because, as yet, another flight has not been scheduled.

Home Secretary Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel (James Manning/PA)

Since Ms Patel signed the deal with the east African nation, more than 1,000 migrants have crossed the Channel.

– Wednesday

The Home Secretary pledged to overhaul Border Force, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided should relinquish responsibility for tackling crossings in April. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is now leading the operation.

It came after a review, commissioned by Ms Patel and carried out by former Australian immigration minister Alexander Downer, found the Home Office agency was performing at a “suboptimal level” and stretching its resources in an “unsustainable and highly inefficient way”.

There were “significant systemic challenges” and it appeared to be “struggling to get out of a cycle of crisis management, reacting to the last challenge and bracing itself for the next, regardless of how predictable the next challenge may be”. Border Force may have been “counter-productive” in how it dealt with Channel crossings, the report added.

Crossings paused for the first time after a 12-day stretch of migrant arrivals, the longest consecutive run so far this year. Some 2,218 made the crossing between July 8 and July 19.

Meanwhile it emerged a drone brought in by the Government in a bid to curb Channel crossings was reportedly found floating in the sea by fishermen after it malfunctioned.

– Thursday

Mr Neal’s report finds the Home Office response to the surge in Channel crossings is “poor” and the “system is overwhelmed”.

David Neal, independent chief inspector of borders and immigration
David Neal, independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI Corporate Services/PA)

The problems arose mainly due to a “refusal” by the Government department to move from an “emergency response to what has rapidly become steady state, or business as usual”, he said.

At the same time the Refugee Council said the number of asylum seekers “languishing” in hotels almost trebled during the course of last year.

Home Office data obtained by the charity showed by December more than 200 hotels were in use and around 10% (about 2,500) of those staying in them were children.

Nearly £5 million a day is spent on housing asylum seekers in hotels.

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