Home Office decision to embed staff in local authorities faces criticism
Home office staff are being embedded within local councils and are sitting in on interviews with destitute migrant families, according to a recent report. The staff are allegedly gathering information on a variety of subjects including the health condition of migrant families and how their children were conceived.
Documents unearthed via a freedom of information request revealed that a total of ten London boroughs had employed UK migration officers on-site. One council (Haringey) did not renew its contract for a UK immigration officer after it received a series of complaints about the worker in question. Another council (Lewisham) has decided recently that its embedded immigration officer should no longer be in direct contact with families.
The news caused anger among UK visa lawyers, politicians and charities, with some describing the practice as “completely unacceptable” and a “perversion of the law.” It comes hot on the heels of further negative press for the Home Office, as in 2017 it was revealed that immigration workers embedded in local authorities were handing information about migrant rough sleepers, directly leading to their removal from the UK.
In many London boroughs, Home Office workers in uniform are now present in assessments which determine how much financial support a family is entitled to, and what sort of accommodation is best suited to them. These Home Office workers are often privy to sensitive information, including the health conditions of family members, how their children were conceived and whether any family members engage in sex work.
Critics of the decision to embed Home Office workers in such interviews claim that the practice is invasive and could risk deterring the most destitute of UK immigrant families from accessing vital support and resources, such as those under Section 17 of the Children’s Act.
Section 17 puts a duty of care on local authorities to ensure the well-being of children by preventing them from becoming homeless. Many UK migrants claiming support under Section 17 have no legal recourse to public funds, making them ineligible for unemployment benefits or NHS care, highlighting the importance of ensuring UK visa applications are made correctly, with the help of an immigration lawyer if required.