In 626 internal investigations in three years, 210 allegations were substantiated
Almost all of the investigations into alleged serious misconduct by Home Office staff relate to immigration matters, the Guardian has learned.
Although the department also has responsibility for policing and counter-terrorism, 96% of its internal investigations focus on immigration matters. Scores of these investigations have substantiated allegations against staff made internally or by the public.
The Home Office’s professional standards unit (PSU) investigates only the most serious misconduct allegations against teams or individuals within the department, or contractors such as those working in detention centres. A general complaints procedure deals with more minor matters that are not investigated by the PSU.
Areas of investigation by the PSU include allegations of crimes such as assault, sexual assault, racism, theft, fraud, harassment or “any behaviour likely to bring the Home Office into disrepute”.
The Guardian obtained a freedom of information response which revealed that in the past three years there have been 626 PSU investigations, with 210 allegations substantiated. Of the areas of the Home Office’s work investigated, 96.4% of the allegations related to borders, immigration and citizenship, with only a handful relating to other important areas such as policing and counter-terrorism.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the disclosures showed the Home Office’s immigration and nationality department was “not fit for purpose” and called for an immediate review.
The PSU has the power to request witness statements, CCTV footage, notebook entries, texts and voicemails on Home Office-issued mobile phones. Matters investigated may be referred to the police or other agencies where appropriate.
Home Office guidance states that the issues considered by the PSU have “potential for serious reputational damage to the Home Office as well as potential legal action taken against us. An assessment of each case will be conducted by the PSU to assess for the potential risk and if there is a risk of adverse publicity.”
In an answer to a parliamentary question last year, the then immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, revealed there had been 25 allegations of sexual assault made by detainees against staff in immigration removal centres between 2014-15 and 2017-18. She said in her response: “Any allegations of serious misconduct made by a detainee against staff in an IRC are also referred to the Home Office PSU for investigation.”
The Guardian requested information about recommended actions against individual members of Home Office staff contained in PSU investigation reports, but was rejected on the basis that each report would have to be examined individually and this would take more work than allowed under freedom of information request time limits.
However, the Home Office guidance states that the PSU’s Lessons Learned team tracks progress made on implementing recommendations in PSU reports and that there are quarterly Lessons Learned reports produced internally.
Home Office ‘doomed to repeat the mistakes of Windrush’
Abbott said: “These figures show just how entrenched ‘hostile environment’ practices are in the Tory Home Office. The Windrush scandal has taught them nothing as they continue to rack up internal investigations with no real consequence and no substantial change. This culture is destroying lives and families every day and cannot be allowed to continue. The immigration and nationality department of the Home Office is clearly not fit for purpose, and the government must call an immediate review into its continued failings.”
Toufique Hossain, a director of public law at Duncan Lewis, which has obtained disclosure of some of these internal PSU reports as part of legal challenges against the Home Office in immigration matters, said: “Grave concerns are raised as to Home Office failings on a daily basis. A government body essentially investigating itself, put simply, will never hold itself accountable.
“The burden is very much placed on the individual under the Home Office’s control, more often than not with the assistance of publicly funded lawyers and NGOs, to ensure that the Home Office is held to account. Only through these mechanisms can vulnerable individuals access courts in order to vindicate their rights.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect the highest levels of integrity and professional conduct of both staff and contractors. The number of complaints investigated by the professional standards unit has fallen by more than 25% since 2016-17.
“Borders, immigration and citizenship system teams have the greatest interaction with members of the public so it is to be expected that there are higher numbers of complaints than for other non-public facing Home Office teams.”
With many thanks to: The Guardian and Diane Taylor for the original story
A former NHS nurse who was born in the UK and has no criminal record has been deported to Ghana, in a case that raises fresh questions over the British government’s treatment of Commonwealth nationals in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
Dean Ablakwa, 34, is currently stateless and unable to work in the Ghanaian capital Accra after the British government removed him in June 2017, despite the fact that he had previously worked and paid taxes in the UK for more than a decade.
With no relatives in the city, he has been sleeping on the friend of a friend’s sofa for the past year and a half and is relying on donations from family in the UK.
Speaking from Accra, Mr Ablakwa said: “It’s been mind-torturing. I can’t sleep properly. I am restless at night-time. Every time I dream I feel like I’m in prison. Even when I’m here I feel like I’m not free. I don’t feel like I’m meant to be here.
“I’m always indoors. I don’t want anyone to see me because I feel embarrassed. I can’t even fend for myself over here. I feel my human rights have been stripped away. I feel betrayed because I always thought I was British.”
The NAO’s Windrush report shows what our reporting points towards
Government ‘failed to act’ on warning signs of Windrush failings
When Mr Ablakwa turned 18, it was decided by his relatives that he must return to the UK to live with his aunt and uncle. With the whereabouts of his passport still unknown, a family member arranged for him to return to Britain illegally using somebody else’s passport.
On arrival in Britain he reverted to using his own identity and was able to obtain a driver’s license, National Insurance card and bank account using his birth certificate. He enrolled in college and later began working as a care assistant.
In 2012, the Enfield resident got a job as a trainee socio-therapist with the NHS in Homerton. But almost a year into the job, he was accused of helping a convicted murderer escape from a secure unit in the facility – a crime for which, after nine months in prison on remand, he was found not guilty.
Mr Ablakwa was released into homelessness because his flat had been repossessed while he was in jail, and he wasn’t given his NHS job back, for reasons he said were never made clear to him. He describes his imprisonment as the moment his human rights started to be “stripped away”.
With nowhere to live and without a job, Mr Ablakwa moved into his aunt’s house in Milton Keynes, at which point he began being targeted by immigration control.
“I was trying to apply for housing benefit, and I got a letter back from the government saying you’re not eligible for housing benefit, you’re an immigrant. You need to leave right now,” he said.
“I called the Home Office and explained what had happened. I had my birth certificate, my bank account, I had voted in elections, I had a GP. I had already been wrongly branded a criminal.”
Mr Ablakwa said the Home Office informed him that it was probably a mistake, but that he must apply for naturalisation because he was born after nationality law changes in 1983 and therefore didn’t automatically qualify for British citizenship.
He paid more than £1,000 to apply, using his last savings, but was refused on the grounds that, the Home Office said, he had not been eligible to work.
“I felt suicidal at this point. It felt so hurtful. It was just too much,” he said.
The 34-year-old was informed he must sign on with the Home Office in London once a month. During one of these meetings, he was told his application to remain on human rights grounds had been rejected and he was detained in Harmondsworth removal centre.
Three weeks later, he was apprehended by immigration officers and taken to a military base and onto a charter flight to Ghana.
Describing the moment he landed in Ghana, he said: “I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to call; I didn’t know how to ask to come get me. I was no longer in touch with the distant relatives from my childhood. I felt lost.”
Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?
Mr Ablakwa managed to borrow someone’s phone and call friends in the UK who put him in touch with people in the city who he has been staying with since. But with no Ghanaian ID, he has been unable to work or get a bank account and is relying on sporadic donations from friends and family in Britain.
The 34-year-old has no funds to pay for legal representation. His previous solicitor Naga Kandiah, of MTC Solicitors, said the main obstacle in his case was the fact that he couldn’t obtain his parents’ records, and accused the Home Office of “ignoring” non-Caribbean Windrush cases.
Chai Patel, legal and policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), who are currently looking into Mr Ablakwa’s case, said: “Sajid Javid has refused to expand his department’s review of Windrush cases of wrongful deportation to people from non-Caribbean countries like Ghana.
“By focussing only on Caribbean countries he is attempting to conceal the huge scope of the scandalous way in which people from all Commonwealth countries have been treated.
“The government must widen its review immediately to remedy the injustices caused to people from all over the world and their children, not just to those from the Caribbean.”
The Home Office refused to tell The Independent whether they held records for Mr Ablakwa’s parents, but claimed that no evidence has been provided, suggesting that they were residents in the UK before 1973.
With many thanks to: The Independent for the original story.
YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.
Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.
Even their cloths were bugged
Colin Duffy, Alec McMcrory, and Harry Fitzsimmons appeared in court this week accused of paramilitary offences. No details were given of the evidence against them. However, it is understood that all three have been under a lengthy period of sophisticated surveillance with MI5 assisting the PSNI/RUC in tracking their movements. The levels of monitoring were unprecedented in scale and included the placing of tiny listening devices in items of clothing. Tracking devices were also used and open spaces – including a green in Co Armagh were Duffy (46) was known to frequently walk – were fitted with hidden spying technology. Gardai have also been assisting the PSNI/RUC as part of a cross-border crackdown on dissidents, monitoring suspects when they travelled to the Republic.
A house in Co Louth visited by Duffy and former IRA prisoner McCrory (52) is believed to have been under surveillance and fitted with listening devices. Under Home Office guidelines authorisation for ‘intrusive ssurveillance’ must be given by the secretary of state and can be granted for periods of six months at a time, providing its use is in the interests of ‘national security’. Although covertly gathered evidence has been used in the North of Ireland in the past, the monitoring surrounding Duffy is on a level never seen before. During the trial of teenager John Paul Wotton for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll the court was told a military tracking device had been fitted to his vehicle. On Monday a workman in Craigavon, Co Armagh, found a military tracking device under the wheel arch of his van. This week Duffy, Fitzsimmons and McCrory were each charged with conspiracy to murder, conspiring to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life and belonging to a proscribed organisation. McCrory and Fitzsimmons were also accused of involvement in a gun attack on Crumlin Road in North Belfast on December 5 and possession of a firearm with intent. The offences cover a period between January 1 and December 16 this year, although Fitzsimmons (45) was only freed from prison in May after serving a jail term for the attempted kidnapping of Bobby To hill in 2004. The trio did not seek bail.
With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News.
- Top dissident republicans taken off the streets (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Dissident gun attacks ‘not linked’ says police (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- NI paramilitary war (almost) reaches Scotland (politics.ie)
- Standing room only as accused appear (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Police banned from east Belfast bar after links to attempted dissident bomb attacks (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
However, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I am not a legal expert and as such cannot provide you with the detailed response you would like on this specific case.
I As an elected Member of Parliament, I have raised it with the Home Office on your behalf and will of course keep you updated with any response I receive.
With best wishes