A constituent called my office this week: she is waiting to hear back from the Home Office about her visa. She is in the UK completely legally; yet – exasperated – she tells me she hasn’t heard anything for six months. She wanted me to call them. Of course, I will, but I told her that not hearing for six months was absolutely nothing new – and, in fact, 18 months is more likely the standard.
To say that the Home Office isn’t working would be the understatement of the century. All week we have seen how they have created backlogs of asylum processing, leaving thousands of people in detention for longer than allowed limits.
For those that do come out of the detention sites, we have seen how the same backlog in processing means adult asylum seekers are waiting 400-odd days for an initial decision, with some children waiting more than 500 days, all while costing the taxpayer £7m a day to accommodate them while they wait.
More than 200 children in the last year have gone missing – likely into the hands of traffickers and abusers here in the UK while they waited. Twelve years of Conservative rule and decision-making in this department has broken the system.
Suella Braverman, when not leaking government information to her backbench pals, could have a look at some of the failings in giving decisions for support to victims of human trafficking. These are people forced into servitude, trafficked for sexual exploitation, trafficked for organs and to undertake crime. They are incredibly vulnerable and in need of support.
When I worked in human trafficking services, the standard agreed time for a decision was 45 days. What happened? Suella Braverman would have you believe (because I don’t think she knows anything about the subject that she is in charge of) that the reason this has gone up is because of people making bogus claims of being a victim of modern slavery in order to help their immigration status.
I have heard her talk about this a number of times. Well, it might surprise the home secretary that in fact the largest group of victims in this group are British. UK citizens make up the largest group of victims of modern slavery referred into our system. As for all the cases being bogus, 91 per cent of cases last year were found to be genuine victims of slavery by the Home Office itself.
As for managing domestic abuse responses for our country, the Home Office this week were once again forced to respond to another damning report about police vetting which has allowed serial abusers to become police officers. The Home Office minister’s response was basically “not our fault, guv!”.
Every time another report comes out about how victims are being failed by our criminal justice system, the government says how awful domestic abuse is and spouts lines about zero tolerance. Then nothing changes.
In the last two years, the Home Office ministers have acted appalled and promised change after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, after the horrific murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, after the shameful case of Child Q, after the shocking Charing Cross station report, after the Stephen Port inquiry.
This week, in parliament, the Home Office minister resisted committing to Labour’s calls for mandatory safeguards and professional standards, led from the top, into every police force in the country. He did say “we expect police forces to adopt all” of the recommendations of the damning report. Oh well: if he expects it, that will be fine. Shame there isn’t an overarching government department who could do something better than “hope” and “expect change”.
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
I have, this week, been chasing the Home Office for a response that they should have made by August following a coroner’s report linking domestic abuse and deaths by suicide. The coroner made recommendations for government following the death of Jessica Louise Laverack. The Home Office just haven’t bothered to reply by the deadline to say what they are going to do about it. Perhaps there is a backlog in replying to coroners’ recommendations too? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Suella Braverman should never have been given her job back after the security breaches, but the PM needed to do it for party unity. If only his most pressing concern was not party unity, but putting someone in a position who could do the very important job of sorting out the absolute mess on every front in the Home Office.
Twelve years of conservative rule has left everything in an absolute mess. None of this had to be this way. Currently, the only people benefitting from the terrible leadership over the UK Home Office is the Rwandan government – who have received £140m to provide zero services. Remember that when you try and renew your passport and it takes months.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley