The Home Office's incompetent approach to deportation is a national disgrace

01 Sep 2017
The most recent victim of the Home Office's incompetence is British-born Shane Ridge who received a letter from the Home Office saying he had no legal basis to be in the country write Diane Abbott MP

In recent weeks we have heard how people with every right to live and work in Britain have been left terrified by Home Office communications threatening them with deportation. Far from being a new  string of faux pas, this ineptitude, lack of reason, and general aversion to compassion may as well be official Home Office policy. This Government’s obsession with immigration targets mires everything it  does, and apparently everyone is fair game.

The most recent victim is British-born Shane Ridge who received a letter from the Home Office saying he had no legal basis to be in the country. His offence was having an Australian-born mother who was never married to his British father. Last month it was British-born Cynsha Best, who was issued a similar notice. Her offence was having a mother born in Barbados while it was still a British colony.

These are the few incidents that have made it to the press. Imagine what it must be like to receive such a notice, having lived, worked, paid taxes and contributed to society. Imagine having that much doubt cast on everything you thought you knew about your rights and where you belong.

Just last week as many as a hundred EU citizens were also sent a deportation notice. The Prime Minister referred to the incident as an “unfortunate error”. Getting a hole in your tights in the morning is “unfortunate”, being  caught in the rain without an umbrella is also “unfortunate”. But being told you have one month to pack your bags and leave the country you live in has to be a little more than that.

The Tories immigration system is based on a reactionary agenda, not reason, and certainly not the best interests of our economy. Against all advice, and seemingly alone in her cabinet, Theresa May  continues to insist on maintaining a net migration target of under  100,000, which has never once been met.

The Prime Minister has worked steadily towards creating the “hostile environment” she envisaged as Home Secretary. Her government presides over a detention system that can effectively hold detainees indefinitely, and has been found to do so without sufficient cause – a subject my colleague Paul Blomfield MP has highlighted recently; they enforce inhumane mass deportations that do not assess asylum claims in a fair and timely manner; and of course have falsely accused international students of overstaying in large numbers. The failures are endless. It is no surprise that the ombudsman upholds more complaints against the Home Office than any other Government department.

Contrary to popular belief, the Labour Party does not condone people staying in this country illegally. But we understand there is the need to assess cases fully, and at times apply discretion. Moreover we absolutely and unequivocally value the contribution that immigrants have made and continue to make to Britain.

Labour will offer fair rules and reasonable management of migration. Our priorities will be jobs, growth and prosperity, not stooping to any means to meet meaningless targets.

The immigration system has been described as broken, supposedly for not being “tough” enough. But the truth is it lacks sense, and above all it lacks humanity – a requisite component when dealing with human beings. These “error” letters, and the Tories approach behind enforcing immigration policy as whole, exposes a much more inherent flaw: the callousness that comes from being guided by deportation and detention, as measures of a successful immigration system. This system is unworkable and the Home Office needs to clean up its act.

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