Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Home Office Still Unfit for Purpose

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Home Office Still Unfit for Purpose

Article excerpt

Off the rails Short work THE HOME Secretary today announces root-andbranch restructuring at the Home Office. Dr John Reid believes that the vast department has failed to accommodate an unstable international climate, and migration trends that were kept in check before 1989. But the Home Office has never been short of people explaining why the system does not work as it should. The challenge is whether this sweeping analysis of failures results in quick amendments.

Some of the changes are clearly positive, like the deployment of far more of its staff on frontline duties. Dr Reid is also proposing to give the Immigration and Nationality Directorate greater independence. He points to the success of giving the Passport Agency greater autonomy as a precedent.

However, there is a significant difference between granting passports and granting asylum.

The latter is very much more politically charged.

The IND needs strong leadership, which a new head and greater autonomy may provide. But any failures will nonetheless rebound quickly on the Government.

Dr Reid has two headaches. One is how to unscramble the real numbers involved in failed asylum cases; the other is to reach a settlement with the judiciary on how Britain can retain a fair but more reliable system of removing those applicants who do not fulfil the criteria to remain.

To lose track of the existence of a few thousand failed asylum seekers in the system may be understandable: to mislay the files on up to 200,000 is a scandal. Government ministers have previously indignantly denied estimates from the National Audit Office that put the number of failed asylum seekers at 285,000, claiming that the real figure was 50,000 fewer. Now Dr Reid's trawl through the files has revealed that there may be as many as 450,000 cases.

At the present rate of deportation, it will be a quarter of a century before the backlog is cleared unless the Government simply grants an amnesty, which it has so far ruled out. Dr Reid is adamant that he will not skirt around the difficulties involved in making his department "fit for purpose".

But this is a task that will demand the utmost rigour in the months ahead, not just an energetic first hundred days THE GOOD news for rail commuters is that the strike organised by the RMT union, which was to have started tomorrow, has been called off, and all credit to Bob Crow, the RMT leader, that this is so. …

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