Home Office contractors suspended after ‘Israel’ crossed out on birth certificate

Israel said he and his wife Dorin felt like a ‘target’ after discovering their baby Ronnie’s birth certificate had been defaced
Israel, right, said he and his wife Dorin felt like a ‘target’ after discovering their baby Ronnie’s birth certificate had been defaced

James Cleverly has said staff working with the Home Office have been suspended after the word Israel was crossed on a baby girl’s birth certificate, as her father considers legal action.

Israel, a father of three from Edgware, north London, said he and his wife, Dorin, felt like a “target” after discovering their baby Ronnie’s identification documents had been defaced.

Staff contracted by the Home Office are accused of scribbling out the word “Israel” from the six-month-old Jewish child’s birth certificate.

The incident, which Israel likened to something out of 1930s Nazi Germany, prompted the Home Secretary to call for an “urgent review”. Staff were also suspended.

On Wednesday, Mr Cleverly said in a tweet: “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 anti-Semitism.”

It is claimed the family was not informed personally about the suspensions, but had been told the Passport Office was “aware of the situation”.

Israel, a 32-year-old engineer who chose not to disclose his second name, told MailOnline: “I am worried because the Home Office said some staff had been suspended – not just one person – which for me raises concerns that these people working for the company were in a hostile environment.

“We are very happy that the Government took swift action but I hope whoever this public servant is is banned.

“I would like to sue them personally for the damage they have carried out to my daughter’s birth certificate, my property.”

Ronnie had now been issued a new birth certificate, Israel said.

The father said despite the Government’s swift action, he still had safety concerns about his personal details being accessed by those who defaced the document.

“I am very glad the government is doing its best and I really hope it’s not too late for something to happen. I am worried that they might have my details or social media,” he told MailOnline.

‘Hate gang’

He added: “How are they accepting [staff] who do not meet the Government’s standards or values?

“The Government absolutely needs to make sure when they get people working in their system they should be vetted and everything should be checked to ensure they are not part of a hate gang or any sort of hateful organisation.”

The family sent off the document on Feb 6 to obtain a British passport for Ronnie.

But when they received the returned certificate on Feb 12, the place of birth for her father – Israel – had been scribbled out with a black pen.

A picture of the birth certificate, which was released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, shows a single scribble on the document in the birthplace box for the father, while the mention of Israel for the mother’s place of birth remains intact.

Israel also claimed the certificate arrived ripped, in a soft envelope and invalidated.

James Cleverly said ‘we will not tolerate anti-Semitism’
James Cleverly said ‘we will not tolerate anti-Semitism’ - Jonathan Brady/PA

The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is supporting the family, said the incident was “completely unacceptable”.

Private company Sopra Steria also said it was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations and is treating the incident with “the utmost seriousness”.

In a statement, a Sopra Steria spokesperson said: “We are shocked and saddened by these reports and are working closely with the Home Office to ensure appropriate action is taken.

“We have commenced a full investigation into the handling of the documentation and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness.

“In the interim, one of our service delivery partners has suspended members of staff while the investigation is ongoing.”

Both Sopra Steria and the Home Office have refused to say how many staff have been suspended.

Sopra Steria announced it had been awarded a five-year Home Office contract in 2020 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 French technology firm, whose UK head office is in Hemel Hempstead, said it would provide the service alongside 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.