It has recently been reported that between 2012 and 2017 the Home Office mistakenly detained over 850 people, some of whom had valid leave to reside in the UK at the time. It is claimed that as a result of this astonishing administrative error the Government had to pay out more than £21 million in compensation.
The above figures were disclosed in a Home Affairs Select Committee paper published this week, which provided a detailed breakdown of the exact number of people wrongfully detained for particular periods and the total sum paid to them in compensation. For example, there were 143 cases of wrongful detention registered between 2016-2017, triggering a £3.3 million compensation payout.
It is also revealed that at least 10 individuals were each paid in excess of £100,000 in compensation, whilst the majority of individuals wrongfully detained received in the region of £20,000 or less. Some only received nominal payments of £1.
The level of compensation was based on the circumstances of each individual case, and was determined by way of an assessment of the “initial shock” caused to the person wrongfully detained. The level of compensation also took into account whether the individual had any previous criminal convictions. Payouts were also made to people who were detained legally, because they had no right to remain in the UK, but whose detention was considered to have been too long.
Although the figures published by the Home Affairs Select Committee do not give details of names or nationalities of the people who were mistakenly detained in immigration detention centers ahead of deportation, it is claimed that it is likely that some of them were Windrush individuals.
The Home Office tried to play down the significance of the numbers of mistakenly detained immigrants claiming that by comparison, this was just a small proportion of the total number of immigrants detained in the UK. The Home Office also stated that “Ninety-five per cent of people who are liable to removal are managed in the community, rather than in detention”. However, Stephen Doughty MP (Labour) who sits on the Home Affairs Committee, said “These figures expose what many of us have warned for months: that the government has been wrongfully locking up individuals as well as wrongfully deporting others. The immigration system needs root and branch reform. How are millions of EU nationals to have any confidence in a system that wrongly deports and locks up people?”
Intriguingly, the same document also disclosed that the Home Office operated targets and bonus schemes for enforced removals from the UK, which applied to senior and junior caseworkers. Some employees even had to meet personal targets on which bonus payments were made. The Home Office admitted that civil servants working within immigration enforcement received performance bonuses for good work, some of which was related to removals.
Only relatively recently, in April this year, confusion over removals targets led to the resignation of the previous Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, when she claimed “that’s not how we operate” but later admitted that she “wasn’t aware of specific removal targets”. The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that he intended to stop the operation of targets, stating that he did “not believe in quantifying targets for removals”.
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