A horrifying ‘mistake’ by the Home Office has cost the British public £21m

Theresa May
Support us and go ad-free

New figures reveal that the UK government wasted £21m of taxpayers’ money on a disgraceful ‘mistake’. The Home Office paid out the public funds in compensation to the hundreds of people it shockingly detained in error between 2012 and 2017.

But while the Home Office clearly wrongfully detained these people, it’s not obviously a mistake. Arguably, it’s the consequence of hostile immigration policies in the UK which aim to deport people seemingly regardless of the cost – policies that include targets and incentives for deportations, rather than removing people as and when is necessary.


As Amelia Gentleman reports in the Guardian, the Home Affairs Select Committee recently obtained the figures. They show that the Home Office wrongfully detained over 850 people over the course of five years. In particular, the committee learned that:

  • The department wrongfully detained more than 550 people between 2012 and 2015. This cost UK taxpayers £13.8m.
  • 171 cases of wrongful detainment occurred in 2015-16. Taxpayers forked out £4.1m as a result.
  • The Home Office did the same to 143 people in 2016-17, culminating in another £3.3m compensation bill.

Furthermore, the documents acquired by the committee show that the department paid target-related bonuses to Home Office staff. The Guardian states that:

Some staff were set ‘personal objectives’ on which bonus payments were made ‘linked to targets to achieve enforced removals’.


The permanent secretary at the home office, Philip Rutnam, revealed the appalling scale of error in his department through a letter to the committee. But Rutnam also effectively argued that the Home Office’s failures aren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. He wrote:

By way of scale comparison, to support enforcement of the UK’s immigration law over 27,000 people are detained each year under immigration powers… Ninety-five per cent of people who are liable to removal are managed in the community, rather than in detention.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

That’s not, however, how everyone sees it. Home Affairs Committee member Stephen Doughty commented:

These figures expose what many of us have warned for months: that the government has been wrongfully locking up individuals as well as wrongfully deporting others.

Catalogue of failure

The Home Office didn’t provide details to the committee about who it wrongfully detained. But the Guardian claims it’s “likely” that it includes some members of the Windrush generation. The department detained, or threatened to deport, a number of Windrush people.

Home secretary Sajid Javid has vowed to “do right by the Windrush generation”. He has also publicly disowned the term Theresa May used to describe her immigration policy as home secretary: ‘hostile environment’.

But Javid has, since becoming home secretary, voted in favour of keeping documents relating to Windrush secret. And his voting history on immigration overall leaves a lot to be desired.

Doughty says the department needs “root and branch reform”. These shocking compensation figures, the stories of shameless attempted deportations, and the outrageous fees charged to people trying to remain show Doughty is right.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t look set to happen under this Conservative government.

Get Involved!

Take action with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Featured image via Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed