Home Office accused of basing immigration policies on ‘anecdote and prejudice’

Support us and go ad-free

The Home Office has been accused of basing immigration policies on “anecdote, assumption and prejudice” instead of evidence, and having no idea of the effect they have on refugees. The department shows far too little concern over the damage caused by its failures on “both the illegal and legitimate migrant populations”, according to a scathing review from the Public Accounts Committee.


The findings, published on 18 September, said the Home Office has “no idea” what its £400m immigration enforcement annual spending achieves, and instead appears to formulate policies not on evidence but on “anecdote, assumption and prejudice”.

Committee chairman Meg Hillier said:

The Home Office has frighteningly little grasp of the impact of its activities in managing immigration.

It shows no inclination to learn from its numerous mistakes across a swathe of immigration activities – even when it fully accepts that it has made serious errors.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

It accepts the wreckage that its ignorance and the culture it has fostered caused in the Windrush scandal – but the evidence we saw shows too little intent to change, and inspires no confidence that the next such scandal isn’t right around the corner.

“No answer”

Despite “years of public and political debate and concern”, the department still does not know the size of the illegal population in the UK, the report said. The committee reiterated criticism previously raised by the National Audit Office about the department not estimating the illegal population in the UK since 2005.

The latest report said the Home Office had “no answer” to concerns that “potentially exaggerated figures calculated by others could inflame hostility towards immigrants”.

The department does not know whether hostile environment policies have deterred illegal migration, it added.

A lack of evidence and “significant” lack of diversity at senior levels has created “blind spots” in the organisation, the report said, describing the Windrush scandal as demonstrating the “damage such a culture creates”.


The department does not know why so many migrants were released from detention because they could not deport them as planned last year (62% compared with 58% in 2018), the report said.

It also warned the Home Office was “unprepared for the challenges the UK’s exit from the EU presents to its immigration enforcement operations”, adding that the department had been unable to provide evidence, when asked in July, that it had begun discussions with EU counterparts on international operations, including regarding “the return of foreign national offenders and illegal migrants”.

The committee said it was not convinced the department is “sufficiently prepared” to properly safeguard the existing, legal immigrant population in the UK, while also implementing a new immigration system and responding to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.


The committee gave the Home Office six months to come up with a detailed plan to make sure its decision-making is led by data and evidence so it can analyse its work, particularly with regard to tackling illegal migration.

Minnie Rahman, campaigns and public affairs manager for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the report paints a:

very accurate picture of a clueless, careless and cold-hearted Home Office.

It is but the latest in a slew of reports to slam the Home Office’s working culture and practices.

The charity echoed the committee’s calls for change, adding:

Immigration policy and practice must be based on robust evidence, proper staff training and a new culture of respect and care for individuals.

A Home Office source said:

The Home Secretary agrees with the assessment made by the Public Accounts Committee of historical issues at the Home Office.

She has spoken at great length how the department puts process before people and is why she has committed to implementing the findings of the Wendy Williams review into Windrush.

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