The cruelty and insensitivity of the Home Office summed up in a single booklet

I had a bit of a sleepless night last night. The coughing started up again before I could take any more medicine so I had to try and distract myself with Twitter. I assumed that the screenshots of an alleged guide for deported people to help them settle in Jamaica had to be fake. Seriously, what human being could come up with this?

But I followed the link and, sure enough, it did actually lead to a gov.uk website. The advice on mental health was even more crass.

When you return, you may face a number of challenges, such as separation from family, friends, personal possessions and property; problems locating family members and friends; difficulties in finding suitable and safe housing; and general difficulties in adjusting to your new environment. Most people adjust fairly well but some people may experience mental health problems. Signs to watch out for are:  difficulty in sleeping, or sleeping too much  feeling sad  being irritable or short tempered  having no interest in the pleasures of life  loss of appetite  difficulty in concentrating or making decisions  feelings of hopelessness or helplessness  thoughts that life is not worth living  suicidal thoughts. If you experience mental health problems, you should:  develop supportive relationships where you can: contact family members and friends and establish supportive and healthy relationships;

If you are one of the Windrush Generation and have just been deported thousands of miles from your children to a place that you haven’t seen in half a century, the advice to contact family members could not be more hurtful and insensitive. This booklet isn’t new. It’s been around for about as long as Theresa May’s “hostile environment.” I really do feel ashamed of my Government sometimes. As Ed Davey writes on the Ad Lib blog, the Windrush scandal exposes the brutality of the Home Office:

As the longest serving Home Secretary who oversaw this system, Theresa May herself must be held to account. But while we have Ministers on the backfoot over Windrush, and champion the Windrush cause, we should press home the wider case against this Government’s shocking immigration and asylum policies. In the Commons, I forced the Home Secretary to confirm the new dedicated unit for the Windrush Generation would also apply to all people from former Commonwealth countries in similar situations – whether they were born in Australia or India, Canada or Pakistan. That’s a start. But what about the thousands of people from other countries who’ve lived here for decades, yet are treated appallingly by the Home Office? As a local MP, I’ve had a significant number of cases over the years of people living here for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years – and longer – where the Home Office has refused to grant them British passports, indefinite leave to remain and so on.

He concludes:

But as Britain’s party of reform, we have to defeat the Conservatives’ “hostile environment” immigration policy, introduced by Theresa May, which plays such a big part in these hideous injustices. And let’s start by building on this Windrush victory by campaigning for the rights of all long-term residents of our country.

The working group that is developing our new immigration policy should take note.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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34 Comments

  • Unbelievable. Only the mentality that came up with go home vans could come up with this. I’m surprised it doesn’t include guidance on assisted suicide.

  • John Marriott 17th Apr '18 - 8:27pm

    I gather that most of the documentation regarding the Windrush Generation was destroyed in 2010.

    Just to think that we were once led to believe that our Civil Service was second to none. Mrs May does struggle to think outside the box. ‘Strong and stable’? Really?

    What an embarrassing shambles!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Apr '18 - 8:34pm

    This is about staff rather than government or is it policy by government. For weeks this has been a news item and dealt with here only now and mentioned by Ed Davey this week, if it as reported for these several weeks, this is about staff at the Home Office. If it is an issue with policy could that have come from politicians, because this is not the story as reported on channel 4 .

    It is an absolute obscenity and has little to describe it other than that.

  • I struggle to give my opinion on this without descending into the kind of language that would get me put on review. It’s just so heartless and reckless with the lives of others and so easily avoided. Those most affected are those at about retirement age, who have put into this country for the longest and deserve to get something back – often in need of medical support, which living in the UK shouldn’t require the stress of paperwork.

    These people deserve much more than an apology for ‘any distress’, they deserve compensation.

  • Bill le Breton 17th Apr '18 - 9:11pm

    Who actually voted for the creation of this ‘hostile environment’ policy?

    From the Guardian: “The onus is on individuals to prove they were resident in the UK before 1 January 1973, the date the 1971 Immigration Act came into force. However, a key clause from 1999 legislation, which had provided longstanding Commonwealth residents with protection from enforced removal, was deleted from the 2014 Immigration Act”

  • The 2014 Immigration Act was rushed through parliament, in one instance with over 50 amendments tabled at once.

    Much of the focus of the debates was on the rule change that would allow a Home Secretary to leave a person stateless at her discretion.

    The clause referred to in the Guardian – according to the government- was duplicated in other legislation.

    The bill also included core Liberal Democrat policies such as the ending of child detention (I think). As was the norm in Coalition, LibDem ministers voted for the bill – but non-ministers were free to rebel – and some did.

    Labour largely abstained, strongly whipped to do so I think, save for a collection of MPs including Corbyn & Allies who voted against.

    As was the case with a lot of coalition policy – there was a lot of good mixed in with the bad. LDs in giver ment acted in good faith – but were naive to the true jostility of May’s regime in the Home Office.

  • We were in Government at the time were we not and as I recall was there not a lot of unhappiness with our Home Office Ministers role at the time over those vehicles driving around with those nauseating immigrant posters on the side. We could yet be dragged into this. That …… coalition.

  • Last week the Law Society published a report drawing attention to the fact that some 50% of immigration appeals are upheld. It is clear from that report that the Home Office, regardless of expense, is objecting to people staying here just for the sake of it and to keep up Theresa May’s “hostility to immigrants” policy. The Law Society suggests that the Home Office may be institutionally racist. It took an independent public enquiry to establish that this was true in the case of the Met and to have something done about it. I should like to see our MP’s pressing for a public enquiry into the Home Office. As John Reid, former Home Secretary, said several years ago – it’s “not fit for purpose”. It was true then and Theresa May made it even worse.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 9:57am

    There is also an F&CO website intended for British tourists, which is likely to say that some areas have concentrations of dangerous criminals, which are best avoided. If an asylum claim was made the decision letter and appeal hearing should address the “sufficiency of protection”, which in Jamaica is marginal or doubtful.
    Ministers are unlikely to concede that Jamaica is unsafe because all asylum claim would need to be conceded. What they have done in the past is to lend Jamaica some British police officers. It might be worth asking whether there are any now. Could the Met spare any from the current policing of London?
    Landing cards are a different issue because there was a procedure for microfilming them. Caseworkers who wanted one would therefore get a photocopy of part of the microfilm with a delay of 1-2 days. Destruction of microfilm would be counter-intuitive, although perhaps they degrade over a period in storage. Destruction of large volumes of cardboard landing cards which had been microfilmed would be normal. If Siemens had ben able to deliver their contract for computerisation when Jack Straw was Home Secretary there would be computer records and a saving of £65 million, the write-off of which must have been authorised at a very high level.
    There was a time when the Immigration service was in crisis because Gordon Brown had promised that a Labour government would follow the Tory spending plans, although former Chancellor Ken Clarke had said that the Tories would not have done. There was a mountain of papers to be linked to files, lacking which initial decisions could not be correctly taken and parts of the office ran out of work. Files were sent to storage known as Layby. This was exacerbated when a court ruled that cases which had been refused asylum needed to be also considered for Article 3 ECHR. An immigration judge ruled that trying to consider the slightly different criteria simultaneously was generally too difficult for the IJs (“intellectual gymnastics”) and that the criteria were the same. Junior staff in Immigration solicitors flooded the office with applications asking for all the ECHR criteria to be considered without making any claim to relevance. There is for instance a right to marriage which occurs rarely and would not be refused. The precedent was a Swiss case which lawyers found amusing because it was affected by long delays in the ECtHR during which the circumstances of the applicant changed repeatedly.

  • Today, she said: “We would also like to reassure you that there will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help these citizens get their proper documentation in place.” She still does not simply give them passports. She will never change. It’s her or JC currently; what a miserable choice.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 10:06am

    Boris Johnson (F&CO) commented on the Commonwealth (CHoGM) that they all have strong relationships with the UK. Hopefully someone in his department can advise him better, failing which he should consider his position. What about Mozambique? (ex Portuguese empire) What about Rwanda? (ex Belgian)

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Apr '18 - 10:08am

    “What they have done in the past is to lend Jamaica some British police officers. It might be worth asking whether there are any now. Could the Met spare any from the current policing of London?”

    Presumably yes – given their continuing involvement in investigating the disappearance – on foreign soil – of Madeleine McCann… Oh I forgot – she’s white…..

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 10:14am

    Arnold Kiel 18th Apr ’18 – 10:04am: In the Commons Amber Rudd belatedly made a verbal exception for serious criminals, but how serious? Convictions for lifer offences such as rape, attempted murder, arson etc? Surely not for a sentence of 12 months for an immigration offence?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '18 - 10:22am

    @Theakes I am very aware that our record on immigratiion while in Government was one of the poorest parts of our legacy. We did stop child detention and got rid of the racist vans eventually but that was about it.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 10:23am

    Nonconformistradical 18th Apr ’18 – 10:08am: That was in Portugal, an EU member state, which does have a “sufficiency of protection”. The level of protection afforded cannot be absolute because of resources, but you worry me because if the child had been kidnapped in Nigeria would the courts rule that there is a sufficiency of protection?

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 10:26am

    Arnold Kiel 18th Apr ’18 – 10:04am Vince Cable is the Liberal Democrat candidate for PM, previously our candidate for Chancellor.

  • @John Marriott re: “I gather that most of the documentation regarding the Windrush Generation was destroyed in 2010.”
    Do you have a source?
    I was wondering if the HO position was actually based on not admitting to the total failure of the system ie. they had lost the official records; given what has been reported about caseload and paper records accumulating since the 1990’s.

    I think if we want a functioning immigration policy – regardless of it’s actual content, we need to massively invest in building a case and records management system and recruiting and training associated personnel that can support the levels of applications we have been witnessing.

  • Arnold Kiel 18th Apr '18 - 7:14pm

    Richard Underhill,

    I wish Vince Cable were a contender, believe me. If we are talking about people who came with the Windrush, they are either very old (and therefore highly unlikely to be serious criminal offenders and outside a prison), or have arrived in the UK as little children. Either way, expulsion is not a civilised option, not even towards criminals. Rudd raising this extremely unlikely case shows the inhuman disposition of the May Government.

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '18 - 8:02pm

    Why aren’t National Insurance records used as evidence on domicile? I’ve been in and out of the country quite a bit during the course of my working career and recently looked up my pension entitlement on the Gov website. The records were all there. It was very straightforward.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Apr '18 - 9:41pm

    We know our party’s liberal views on immigration. Surely we should declare that we believe a ‘hostile environment’ policy towards immigrants should be replaced now by rational evaluation of their value to our society, humane treatment of those who cannot be accommodated, but strong affirmation that those who have lived among us peacefully for decades should be assured now of their being warmly accepted and welcome fellow citizens.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Apr '18 - 10:51pm

    At PMQ on 18/4/2018 Theresa May made a statement about Landing cards. She said that the decision was made in 2009 by a Labour government, which unsettled Jeremy Corbyn who continued with his speech as if he had not heard it. Hansard can be corrected but the BBC TV I-player record of the BBC2 Daily Politics will remain for a month.
    Accurate statements are needed. The words ‘Deport’ and ‘Deportation’ are widely used for enforced removals when Ministers have authorised deportation and when they have not. The difference is that ‘Administrative Removal’ was introduced to reduce the numbers of cases that Ministers and later very senior civil servants needed to check personally.
    https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/195
    After the Home Office lost a court case the minister circulated an instruction that he would decide on compassion. The circumstances of the case must be followed precisely. The circumstances were that a Nepalese Ghurka soldier had been awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions in Burma during World War Two, which ended in 1945.
    I do not remember the name of the minister, nor his party.

  • The Windrush scandal is merely the tip of the iceberg in the unraveling obscenity that is the Home Office. Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary fundamentally changed the Home Office from a relatively impartial bureaucracy into a politically motivated machine for reducing immigration.

    The relative merits of individual applications became secondary to reducing numbers and the ‘hostile’ environment she introduced in order to pacify the racist-xenophobic minority of voters has inevitably been interpreted as finding any excuse to turn down applications – regardless of their legitimacy or the human suffering that refusal might entail.

    But let us not delude ourselves. Civil servants may have fired the gun, but it was loaded, placed in their hands and directed towards its targets by Theresa May, David Cameron and other members of our political establishment.

    The plight of the Windrush generation may have captured the headlines, but the Home Office’s attempts to deport long-term UK residents (many of whom arrived as children) simply because they can’t supply ‘approved’ documentation has been going on for several years. And the combination of Brexit and Theresa May’s ascension into number 10 has seen a dramatic escalation in numbers, intensity and the callous disregard for justice and common decency.

    And given Theresa May’s track record, nothing is going to change. Amber Rudd may be volunteered as a sacrificial lamb, but she’ll be quickly replaced by another glove puppet and normal business will be resumed.

    God bless Theresa. Doesn’t it make you proud to be British.

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Apr '18 - 7:30am

    @ Lee Allane,
    It is the politics of hate, enabled by weak politicians , appeasers, who are too scared to call it out for what it is.

    I have met with a grandparent who came to this country as a child, and after a lifetime of making a positive contribution, being British, she no longer is deemed to be so. How does one ever deal with the pain and sense of rejection she feels, even if we manage to rectify this terrible wrong?

    I think you might be surprised at the level of anger the treatment of people like her has engendered, sometimes (thankfully) coming from unexpected quarters.

  • Lee Allane/Jayne mansfield ….

    Sadly, May (and her policies) have supporters. I read one revelling in her point scoring at PMQs.

    The postl was all about….. “No,” replied Mrs May crisply. “The decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 – under a Labour government.” Without another word, she plumped herself back down….followed by ‘thumbs up’…

    My reply** will be disparaged as ‘lefty whining’…

    **”Sadly, gloating over Corbyn’s ‘discomfort’ seems far more important than the distress, deportation and even suicide of members of the Commonwealth whose parents (many of whom served in our armed forces) were asked to come and help this country after WW2…
    How would you feel if, in a country you have always considered ‘home’, after months of harassment, immigration/police suddenly turned up at your door, at 3am, with a one way plane ticket for you? The British sense of ‘fair play’ seems to be changing to that of 1930’s Germany…

  • Jayne mansfield 19th Apr '18 - 9:47am

    @ Expats,
    We haven’t heard the whole story yet which is one of the most disgraceful I have heard in my life.

    Also, which government in 2014, quietly removed protection offered by a specific exemption in the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act when the Act was updated, one previously prevented forced removals of longstanding commonwealth immigrants?

    The behaviour displayed towards them goes against every notion of human decency. And yes, it is in short supply amongst certain of our parliamentarians who now pay lip service.

  • T May said the Conservatives were seen as the nasty party and she seems to be doing her best to keep it that way. I thought those vans she sent out while Home Secretary was one of her more shameful acts but clearly not the most shameful. The problem is that this sort of behaviour will make her popular amongst certain people and that is why she does it.
    It is also worrying that so many documents sent to Government departments get “lost”. It can take ages to get something like a birth certificate returned so it is best not to send any original paperwork and always keep copies if you are told only originals will be accepted.

  • The ramifications of the Windrush scandal are beginning to resonate in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe as the full extent of the British Government’s duplicity rises to the surface and it becomes increasingly clear that there are legitimate concerns for the long-term security of EU citizens.

    Not only has there been a 500% increase in the deportation and detention of EU citizens since the EU referendum (over 5,000 in 2017, the majority of whom for the most spurious of reasons and many clearly illegal), but we have all now been made startlingly aware that a simple change in immigration legislation (over forty years after the people concerned settled legally in the UK) can retrospectively remove all their legal rights.

    These changes to the 2014 Immigration Act robbed the Windrush generation of their ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status and many are now faced with the prospect of losing their jobs, homes, pensions and benefits, separation from their families, denial of life saving medical treatment, imprisonment and deportation.

    It is therefore not surprising that Guy Verhofstadt and other EU representatives have now demanded further, more comprehensive guarantees for EU citizens, rather than simply trusting Theresa May’s vacuous reassurances that ‘settled status’ (a version of ‘indefinite leave to remain’) is all the guarantee they’ll need.

    The Daily Telegraph responded to his perfectly understandable concerns by launching a jingoistic personal attack for daring to interfere in British politics, despite the fact that he is specifically tasked with protecting the interests of EU citizens and would be failing in his duty if he didn’t try to ensure that what has happened to the Windrush generation today wasn’t lying in wait for EU citizens in the future.

    I don’t envy Mr Verhofstadt his task of trying to negotiate in good faith with the duplicitous rabble that now occupy Downing Street against a backdrop of increasing racism, intolerance and xenophobia.

    They have brought my Country into disrepute. I used to be proud of having a British passport, now I am seeing it more and more as a badge of shame.

  • Lee Allane 19th Apr ’18 – 12:23pm…………These changes to the 2014 Immigration Act robbed the Windrush generation of their ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status and many are now faced with the prospect of losing their jobs, homes, pensions and benefits, separation from their families, denial of life saving medical treatment, imprisonment and deportation…………..

    I note, if memory serves, that only three of our MPs voted against this shameful act.
    A belated “Well done” to John Leech, Sarah Teather and David Ward…

  • Richard Underhill 20th Apr '18 - 2:16pm

    BBC2 Daily Politics is repeating today a clip from Question Time in 2004 when opposition spokesperson Theresa May called for the resignation of Home Office Minister Beverly Hughes (Labour). The Minister had the support in the Commons of Home Secretary David Blunkett. She claimed, wrongly, to have the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair. She had also embarrassed civil servants by causing a spike in the number of Minister’s Cases. On the basis that MPs “write to me” she was running a different policy from the published policy. Solicitors and representatives for applicants noticed her generosity and increasingly often made applications through MPs rather than directly to the Home Office. The anomaly ended when she went. A consequence was that caseworkers had to be redeployed from their normal work to deal with the large number of Ministers’ cases.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverley_Hughes

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '18 - 11:59am

    John King 17th Apr ’18 – 7:46pm: “Advice on assisted suicide”? Of course the immigration service does do this. When David Blunkett was Home Secretary he took responsibility for a policy on former applicants whose appeal rights had been exhausted and who consequentially had no right to remain in the UK. Some of them wrote in saying that they were contemplating suicide and some of these wrote that they had attempted suicide by, for instance, slashing their wrists. With no power of discretion to grant any leave the only alternative would be to prioritise removal. There had been a period when the Labour government was not doing removals at all, allegedly because of lack of money caused by Gordon Brown’s promise to stick by the Tories’ spending plans after the 1997 general election. I recall one person who called repeatedly, saying he was desperate and wanted to go home. He was Polish, so you may deduce it was between 1997 and 2004. A caseworker in the Illegal Entry section said he would give this co-operative case top priority but failed to achieve the removal. (Carriers could be charged in some cases, but not in this one).
    Despite what David Blunkett said on BBC Radio 4 this week, the Labour government had tried to set up the Immigration and Nationality Service as a Quasi Non Government Office (QUAGO). This was partly about budgets, so the policy was trialled for 12 months. You may be surprised to read that Labour’s policy objective was partially to prevent Ministers needing to take responsibility. The IND Board was aware that they were all male. They decided to appoint, as chief, someone with experience only of local government (Birmingham) and who went to on the Inland Revenue (HMRC).
    Gordon Brown’s policy lasted for two years, following which large amounts of money were obtained from the Treasury, initially for increases numbers of staff and again for removals.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Apr '18 - 1:51pm

    The personnel department came up with a very reasonable policy on targets, for instance they should be “achievable”. Line managers then said that targets should be “challenging”.
    Improved productivity for a team and better customer service could be achieved on MPs’ cases, using ordinary computer technology and not requiring anyone in the chain to do their work twice. Had this been enforced more widely selfish individuals would not have been slowing down the process.

  • It is hard to reconcile Theresa May’s background as the daughter of a Clergyman with the evil she has been responsible for in office.

  • Richard Underhill 19th May '18 - 11:33pm

    There is a prison for elderly convicts, with handrails for the disabled etc. What prisons do is on the prison service website.

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