Amber Rudd has admitted that some immigration officers do use targets for the number of people they should deport, after denying it less than 24 hours ago.
The home secretary said she was not aware of the targets for deportations being used by some officers, when she told a committee of MPs on Wednesday “that’s not how we operate”.
Labour again called on Ms Rudd to resign as pressure intensified on her handling of the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal which saw people in the UK being wrongly targetted for deportation.
The Cabinet minister was summoned to the Commons to explain why her comments to the committee hearing, appeared to contradict evidence from another witness who said deportation targets are being used.
Ms Rudd told the Chamber: ”I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people.
“The immigration arm of the Home Office has been using local targets for internal performance management. These were not published targets against which performance was assessed, but if they are used inappropriately, then I am clear that this will have to change.”
She went on: “I have asked officials to provide me with a full picture of performance measurement tools which are used at all levels and will update the House and the Home Affairs Select Committee as soon as possible.”
Ms Rudd again repeated that she had not been aware of the targets being used by some officers, but then added “I want to be aware of them”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott highlighted the resignation of former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, who quit after The Falklands were invaded saying it was “a matter of honour”.
She went on: “Isn’t it time that the home secretary considered her honour and resigned.”
Other Labour MPs also set their targets at Ms Rudd, including David Lammy who has been at the forefront of campaigning for those affected by the Windrush scandal.
The Tottenham MP said: “I asked the minister at the last urgent question how many people had been deported, she said she didn’t know. I asked her how many people had been imprisoned in our own country, she said she didn’t know.
“There are impact statements that have been ignored. There are letters from MPs and she said she wasn’t aware of a pattern.
“We now understand that people have been removed because of targets, and she said she didn’t know. I say with all conscience, is she really the right person to lead this office of state.”
Ms Rudd said that there was an “element of surprise” in the systemic nature of the problem around the Windrush victims, but argued that she had worked to address the problems raised by Mr Lammy after they were brought to her attention.
Windrush generation: threat of deportation from UK
The ex-troopship ‘Empire Windrush’ arriving at Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, with 482 Jamaicans on board, emigrating to Britain.
Jamaican immigrants being welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship ‘Empire Windrush’ landed them at Tilbury.
The son of Ruth Williams, a Windrush-generation immigrant, wants to the leave the country after threats of deportation. According to his mother, Mr Haynes applied for British citizenship in 2016 but was rejected, despite Ms Williams having lived in the UK almost permanently since arriving from St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1959.
Ruth Williams, 75, said she felt “betrayed” by Britain after the Home Office twice turned down applications for her 35-year-old son, Mozi Haynes, to remain in the country.
Ms Williams is understood to have cancer and said she relies heavily on her son for support.
The British liner ‘Empire Windrush’ at port in 1954.
Ruth Williams, 75, with her British passport. “I feel betrayed and a second class citizen in my own country,” she said. “This makes me so sad and the Home Office must show some compassion.
“I am unwell and almost 75, I live on my own and I need my son to stay here. I need my family around me and I can’t face being alone. He has applied to the Home Office and been refused twice.”
From the top, hopeful Jamaican boxers Charles Smith, Ten Ansel, Essi Reid, John Hazel, Boy Solas and manager Mortimer Martin arrive at Tilbury on the Empire Windrush in the hope of finding work in Britain.
Jamaicans reading a newspaper whilst on board the ex-troopship ‘Empire Windrush’ bound for Tilbury docks in Essex.
After half a century in Britain, Anthony Bryan decided it was time to go abroad. But the decision set off a nightmare that saw him lose his job, detained twice and almost deported to Jamaica.
Jamaica-born Anthony Bryan poses outside his home in Edmonton, north London. Now 60 and a grandfather, Bryan thought the issue could be resolved swiftly, as he legally moved to Britain with his family as part of the Windrush generation of Caribbean migrants after World War II. In 1948, the ship Windrush brought the first group of migrants from the West Indies to help rebuild post-war Britain, and many others followed from around the Commonwealth. A 1971 law gave them indefinite leave to remain, but many never formalised their status, often because they were children who came over on their parents’ passports and then never applied for their own.
Three Jamaican immigrants (left to right) John Hazel, a 21-year-old boxer, Harold Wilmot, 32, and John Richards, a 22-year-old carpenter, arriving at Tilbury on board the ex-troopship ‘Empire Windrush’, smartly dressed in zoot suits and trilby hats.
Newly arrived Jamaican immigrants on board the ‘Empire Windrush’ at Tilbury in 1948.
Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, she said she had asked for more removals of illegal immigrants to take place, but was not familiar with a suggestion from a union official that regional targets were in place.
She said: “We don’t have targets for removals”, adding “if you are asking me if there are numbers of people we expect to be removed that’s not how we operate”.
Earlier Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, had told the same MPs a national target, broken down regionally, had been set to remove people in the UK illegally, and staff were under “increasing pressure”.
She said the government’s net migration target had been “translated down through the operational arm of the Home Office to a… net removals target that enforcement teams have to meet, so they are aiming to remove a certain number of individuals in any given month”.
Ms Rudd has rejected suggestions that the Conservatives’ goal of reducing net migration below 100,000 had contributed to the Windrush problem.
The government has set up a task force to help those affected by the Windrush cases formalise their status, with 3,800 calls made to the helpline, of which 1,364 were potentially Windrush cases.
Critics say the implementation of the “hostile environment” policy, set out in immigration laws passed while Ms May was at the Home Office, has meant children who came to the UK from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the late 1940s to the 1970s have faced being targeted by immigration officers for deportation.
The policy has seen people needing to prove their citizenship with documentary evidence before being able to work, rent homes or receive medical treatment, even if they have been in the country for many years.
Often children who travelled to the UK on parents’ passports during the Windrush period did not apply for travel documents, and so lack a trail of official paperwork.