Home Office contractor suspends staff after ‘Israel’ defaced on birth certificate

<span>The birth certificate with ‘Israel’ scribbled out. It was sent as part of a baby’s passport application.</span><span>Photograph: Campaign Against Antisemitism</span>
The birth certificate with ‘Israel’ scribbled out. It was sent as part of a baby’s passport application.Photograph: Campaign Against Antisemitism

Staff have been suspended and an inquiry has been launched by a Home Office contractor over claims that the word “Israel” was defaced on a baby’s birth certificate after it was submitted in a passport application.

The Paris-based contractor Sopra Steria said it was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations and had started a “full investigation into the handling of the documentation and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness”.

It confirmed staff had been suspended but did not specify how many workers had been disciplined.

The family involved called for those responsible to be dismissed, and are reported to be planning to sue the company. “I felt horrendous when I saw it for the first time,” the baby’s father, Israel, told Sky News.

Asked about rising antisemitism in the UK, he said: “The situation here is not good. To be Jewish in the UK is very hard. And it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse and worse.”

The incident was highlighted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which on Monday posted an image on X of the defaced and torn document. Israel, the baby’s father’s birth country, had been scribbled out.

The CAA demanded an explanation from the Home Office and added: “Confidence in the authorities is at painfully low levels and must be restored.”

Responding on Wednesday, James Cleverly apologised to the family and said the government would not tolerate antisemitism. Posting on X, the home secretary said: “We apologise to the family for the offence caused and I have ordered an urgent review of a birth certificate being defaced.

“While we establish the facts, our commercial partner has suspended some staff. The matter is totally unacceptable. We will not tolerate antisemitism.”

In a statement, Sopra Steria said: “One of our service delivery partners has suspended members of staff while the investigation is ongoing. We are shocked and saddened by these reports and are working closely with the Home Office to ensure appropriate action is taken.”

The CAA said: “The home secretary has rightly apologised on behalf of the department, and we have relayed that apology to the victims. We commend the home secretary for acting quickly and forthrightly following this outrageous incident.

“Clearly, for someone to receive their child’s birth certificate torn, with the parent’s place of birth scribbled out, just because it is the Jewish state, falls well beneath those standards.

“It is gross misconduct, and the company must remove the individual responsible.”

In 2020 Sopra Steria announced it had been awarded a five-year Home Office contract to “deliver a modern, digital service to securely validate and digitise passport application forms and supporting evidence”, adding that the appointment built on a “successful 11-year partnership” with the UK government’s Passport Office.

The technology firm, whose UK head office is in Hemel Hempstead, said it would provide the service alongside a storage and information management services company, Iron Mountain, from two sites in the Hertfordshire town and Corby, Northamptonshire.

The work involves scanning, validating and uploading a digital copy of “key documents for British passport applications” for processing before storing and returning documents to customers, the company said at the time.

Iron Mountain has been contacted for comment.