The Home Secretary likes to pose as our protector, asking for her department to be given more powers, telling us this will make society safer. That is not the case. As the Bill reaches committee stage in the House of Lords here are 8 reasons why the Home cannot be trusted with more power.
1. The Windrush Scandal
The Windrush scandal is evidence that the Home Office cannot be trusted with its existing powers let alone more. Immense harm caused by the Windrush Scandal went on for decades before the Home Office was held accountable and even now those that suffered are yet to receive meaningful compensation. The department is still bound by the same laws & policies that led to the scandal & we are yet to find any evidence that the culture of the Home Office has changed.
2. They already have excessive power, which they abuse
The Home Secretary already has unparalleled powers of detention. Unlike in the criminal justice system the Home Office can lock people up indefinitely without trial or automatic legal advice. These powers are frequently abused & in the last 3 years, the government has paid out a total of £24.4 million to 914 people it was found to have locked up unlawfully and those are just the people who made it to court. Home Office decisions are often wrong & need to be overturned by the courts. Instead of learning lessons the Home Secretary is changing the law to make it harder to challenge her department’s decisions.
3. Those abuses can be violent and even deadly
This was shown by the deaths of Joy Gardner, Jimmy Mubenga, Prince Fosu, and countless others who have died in immigration detention, or as a result of other cruel Home Office policies. In 2017 a BBC Panorama documentary recorded undercover footage in Brook House detention centre in which staff members were filmed attempting to strangle detainees, subjecting them to verbal abuse and falsifying records to cover their tracks.
4. They don’t follow their own rules or the law
In addition to the thousands of individual cases of mistreatment, entire policies are frequently found to be in breach of International law, domestic law and their own guidance. These include no-notice enforced removals, the detained fast-track, asylum-seeker permission to work policy, failing to house destitute asylum seekers, lack of legal advice in prisons, lack of support for trafficking survivors, the use of military barracks to house asylum seekers. The UNHCR has confirmed that the Nationality & Borders Bill proposes to break international law in a variety of ways.
5. They waste taxpayers resources
In the words of Richard*, a former client of ours, “The Home Office violate people’s rights and they are doing this with your vote with your tax money”. The Home Office spends colossal sums on cruelty, gifting lucrative contracts to outsourcing companies, like Serco, G4S and Mitie to run detention centres and deportation flights in the UK. The Home Office spent almost £9 million on Charter flights in 2020, which have previously been estimated to cost £13,354 per person. In November 2021 it used a 350-capacity plane to deport 4 people to Jamaica.
6. They are historically and institutionally racist
Wendy Williams’ ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review' exposed systemic issues that reach far beyond the Windrush generation. including a 'culture of disbelief & carelessness ' & 'institutional ignorance & thoughtlessness towards the issue of race.' Immigration Acts from the 60s and 70s, which formed the basis of much of the existing immigration system including the power to detain, were themselves the product of a desire to keep Britain White.
7. Give an inch, they take a mile
When the Home Office implement oppressive systems, and embed the technology and infrastructure required to operate them, there is no limit on who will be targeted next. For example, the Home Office recently rolled out GPS tagging for everyone facing deportation, & having successfully done this it is seeking to extend the practice to all new asylum claimants. Such is the Home Office’s power that it can do this without a change to the law, bypassing parliamentary scrutiny.
8. This is part of a broader cross-government power-grab
Combined with the Policing Bill; the Judicial Review & Courts Bill; & the proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act, the Borders Bill is part of a cross-government power-grab seeking to make the government unchallengeable, silence dissent and erode the institutions of democracy that hold it to account. To give them more power would be to consent to an insidious drift towards authoritarianism.