The Home Office routinely lost thousands of documents which could prove the right of immigrants to stay in the UK, a former official has claimed.
The department mislaid passports, letters and other correspondence leaving immigrants ‘destitute’ as they were unable to prove they were allowed to work.
The claims have renewed calls for the crisis-hit department to be fully overhauled in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
Up to 63 Windrush migrants may have been deported wrongfully in the fiasco – but the department has not been able to track most of them down, Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed.
And thousands of landing cards which could have proved their right to stay in Britain were destroyed by officials in 2010, it emerged.
In the latest slew of damaging claims to hit the Home Office, a former senior immigration official told The Guardian that at its height the department was routinely mislaying vital documents.
The revelation that Windrush immigrants may have been deported because of a Home Office failure has sparked calls to overhaul the Government’s immigration policy. Amber Rudd (pictured right) resigned after she wrongly claimed the department did not have immigration deportation targets. Her replacement, Sajid Javid (pictured left) has vowed to improve the department
Birth certificates, children’s passports and education documents have all vanished, the newspaper reports.
A woman, 36, from a former Communist state, told how her passport was lost by the Home Office leaving her destitute for 10 years.
What is the Windrush scandal and how did the fiasco develop?
June 22, 1948 – The Empire Windrush passenger ship docked at Tilbury from Jamaica.
The 492 passengers were temporarily housed near Brixton in London. Over the following decades some 500,000 came to the UK.
Many arrived on their parents’ passports and were not formally naturalised as British citizens.
1973 – A new immigration Act comes into force putting the onus on individuals to prove they have previously been resident in the UK.
2010 – The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK.
The move came despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties, it was claimed
2014 – A protection that exempted Commonwealth residents from enforced removal was removed under a new law. Theresa May was Home Secretary at the time.
Under a crackdown on illegals, Windrush immigrants are obliged to provide proof they were resident in the UK before 1973.
July 2016 – Mrs May becomes Prime Minister.
April 2018 – Allegations that Windrush immigrants are being threatened with deportation break. Theresa May issued a grovelling apology to Caribbean leaders after major backlash
April 29 – Amber Rudd resigns after inadvertently misleading Parliament by wrongly claiming there were no deportation targets
Another woman who has lived in the UK for 21 years had her application to stay turned down and the documents she sent were never returned – harming her ability to work and get paid.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chairwoman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, said she the problem needs to be ‘urgently’ sorted out.
She said: ‘This is a question of basic competence.
‘Too often we have heard about lost documents and simple errors by the Home Office that can have deeply damaging consequences for people’s lives.
‘The Home Affairs committee and the independent inspectorate have warned the Home Office repeatedly to improve the competency and accuracy of the immigration system.’
She added: ‘The immigration system is far too important a public service for these kinds of mistakes to be acceptable, or for repeated warnings from the inspectorate and the select committee to be ignored.’
Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who sits on the committee, raised the issue back in 2013, said he flagged the problem as early as 2013.
He said: ‘In more recent times, increased delays in processing cases has also meant people often being without key documents for months or even years on end.’
The former borders and immigration inspector, John Vine, has previously told MPs the problem of lost documents features ‘in every inspection’.
In one inspection, 150 boxes of post, including correspondence from applicants, MPs and their legal representatives, were discovered in a room in the immigration office in Liverpool.
Campaigners have warned that the new data protection bill risks making the problem even worse.
Under the legal change, the Home Office can turn down requests by immigrants for them to access information about their own application.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) charity, said: ‘We would have had hundreds of these cases. That’s just us. We’re one of the larger organisations, but we’re still small compared to the vast ocean of people who require assistance.’
Mr Singh has experienced lost paperwork himself when applying for a spouse visa for his wife. ‘We see it every other day. It’s even happened to me.’
Theresa May (pictured heading to church in Maidenhead on Sunday with her husband Philip)) also faced stinging criticism over the Windrush scandal as she oversaw the ‘hostile environment’ policy towards illegal immigrants while Home Secretary
He added: ‘That was pretty horrendous. A lot of those were original documents, we had no idea how we were going to get replacements for them.
‘Things like proof of our income, original payslips, original share certificates, original marriage certificate, birth certificates, university certificates, all of that stuff.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The Home Office takes its data protection responsibilities extremely seriously and have robust safeguards in place to make sure we handle the millions of documents we receive in the appropriate way.
‘When documentation goes missing we make every effort to locate it. Each case should be reported to Home Office Security who will assess whether the Information Commissioner’s Office should be informed.’
But the ICO said this has never previously happened but a change in the law means self-reporting in certain cases will be compulsory.
An Information Commissioner’s Office spokeswoman said: ‘There is no formal obligation to report data breaches under current data protection law, but that will change under the new legislation where breaches will be notifiable if they affect the rights and freedoms of individuals.
‘We have no self-reported incidents from the Home Office in relation to loss of documents.’