Dozens of Home Office staff under criminal investigation, FoI data shows

<span>The Home Office said instances of staff misconduct were rare.</span><span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
The Home Office said instances of staff misconduct were rare.Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Dozens of Home Office staff are under criminal investigation for a range of offences including immigration crime, fraud and drug offences, the Guardian has learned.

In response to a freedom of information (FoI) request about its little-known anti-corruption criminal investigation unit (ACCIU), the department revealed that 16 allegations were either awaiting charging advice or trial and a further 18 were under investigation.

The data, which covers the past three years, also shows there have been two criminal convictions of Home Office staff after investigations by the ACCIU.

In separate data disclosed by the Home Office in February 2024 to a civil servant, 60 staff were dismissed for a range of offences between 2019-20 and 2023-24. These include bullying, harassment, discrimination, abuse of position, theft corruption, fraud or forgery – while a further 63 received written warnings for these disciplinary offences.

The disclosures come at a time when the Home Office is under unprecedented scrutiny for a series of expensive and controversial policies, particularly its plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The government’s safety of Rwanda bill, which states that Rwanda is a safe country in contravention to a supreme court judgment, is expected to be passed into law this week.

The ACCIU has dedicated investigators, and works with law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of corruption among civil servants in the department. It can also prosecute through relevant pieces of legislation.

The ACCIU investigates immigration crime, fraud, computer misuse, theft and drug-related offences. Of 95 allegations investigated over the past three years, along with the 34 cases currently under investigation and the two convictions, 59 cases found insufficient evidence to progress to a criminal case.

However, according to the FoI response: “If any part of the allegation was substantiated and the individual identified this was passed to line managers to consider disciplinary action.”

In the second FoI response, relating to disciplinary action and dismissals, seven staff were dismissed for abuse of position and two received written warnings, 22 were dismissed for bullying, harassment or discrimination and 40 received written warnings, while 31 were dismissed for theft, corruption, fraud or forgery with 21 receiving written warnings.

Louise Calvey, the executive director of the charity Asylum Matters, said: “It’s hugely alarming and worrying to hear that such a large number of people involved in making decisions on immigration status have such significant concerns being investigated against them.

“It’s crucial that people working within government departments, with people made so vulnerable by the anti-refugee policy environment, behave in a fit and proper manner and government is transparent about problems when they arise. To hear that people entrusted and empowered to make decisions on people’s lives are being investigated for such significant concerns including immigration offences and fraud is shocking.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect the highest standards from staff processing visa applications and assessing asylum claims to ensure decisions are sound and that protection is granted to those who genuinely need it.

“While instances of staff misconduct are rare, when they do occur they are fully investigated with the necessary disciplinary action taken.”