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Home Office ‘undermining immigration watchdog’s legitimacy’

Home Office ‘undermining immigration watchdog’s legitimacy’
David Neal says the publication of a report on small boat crossings has been delayed without explanation

O Escritório em casa risks undermining the immigration watchdog’s legitimacy by failing to implement its recommendations, um oficial disse.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI), David Neal, told a press conference that Priti Patel had also failed to publish a report on small boat crossings within the required eight weeks.

Sr. Neal, Um ex British Army officer and Royal Military Police chefe, said he had not yet met the home secretary, despite being in post for 15 meses, and has had several meetings cancelled.

“I still haven’t met the home secretary, it’s really disappointing,” Mr Neal told a press conference on Thursday.

“I’ve regularly met ministers Tom Pursglove and Kevin Foster and my relationships with both ministers are strong, but I haven’t met the home secretary and that’s hugely important.

“I’ve got 26 years of military experienceI think it would be valuable for the home secretary to seek my views of what’s occurring with what I report on.”

Mr Neal said that the Home Office had accepted some of his recommendations but then not implemented them, risking undermining the inspectorate’s legitimacy.

“There’s clearly a risk to the legitimacy of inspection activity if I can’t get recommendations implemented," ele adicionou. “If recommendations are accepted but they’re not being delivered, that becomes a problem.”

Mr Neal said that in a report on asylum casework submitted to the home secretary last July, he called for the Home Office to publish a service standardto govern the speed and decision of asylum decisions“as a matter of urgency”.

Em novembro, an official government response accepted the recommendation and said it was already “working to reintroduce a service standard”, but one has not been created and the number of outstanding cases has continued to rocket.

By the end of March, sobre 89,000 asylum cases relating to almost 110,000 people were awaiting an initial decisionmore than double the figure two years beforeand a record number are taking more than six months.

Mr Neal said the Home Office has not yet implemented a recommendation it accepted in a report on contingency asylum accommodation, which he sent in February.

The watchdog said the government must “develop effective consultation mechanisms with local authorities and their associated wraparound services (saúde, Educação, etc) to enable constructive engagement prior to the establishment of contingency asylum accommodation”.

But Mr Neal said the uproar around plans to house hundreds of asylum seekers at a former RAF base in the village of Linton-on-Ouse showed that consultation “has not been done”.

<p>David Neal is a former British Army officer </p>

David Neal is a former British Army officer

He also called for the Home Office to create a template for setting up asylum accommodation that incorporates the lessons learned from Napier Barracks.

The High Court ruled that the government unlawfully detained asylum seekers there during the Covid pandemic in unsuitable conditions.

“Considering the numbers of people involved and the amount of money being spent, there should be a playbook that captures lessons learned and best practice, the tactical experience on the ground and recommendations made to improve the service,” Mr Neal said.

“The lack of Home Office engagement with the local community prior to the establishment of accommodation at Linton-on-Ouse suggests there is still some way to go.”

A survey of ICIBI stakeholders published in November found that 70 per cent felt the Home Office’s responses to its recommendations “were not adequate”, voicing frustration about delays to the publication of reports and a lack of updates on implementation.

Mr Neal said he submitted a report on the processing of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats on 24 fevereiro, which should have been published within eight weeks.

But the report has still not been laid before parliament and the watchdog has been given no reason for the delay.

Mr Neal previously raised concerns over the delay to publishing reports, his lack of meetings with the home secretary and the implementation of recommendations at a Home Affairs Committee evidence session.

In a letter to the committee, published on Thursday, Ms Patel said she had not been able to meet the watchdog because her role “requires regular adjustments to my diary, often at short notice”, and that she was updated by other ministers.

The home secretary admitted that an update on the implementation of ICIBI recommendations was “overdue” and would be carried out as soon as possible.

“ I am hopeful that Mr Neal will be assured that satisfactory progress has been made on closing recommendations," ela adicionou.

“It was disappointing to hear Mr Neal’s comments and we will work to restore his confidence … I do not agree the ICIBI’s statutory role is undermined but my senior officials can invite Mr Neal to raise any issues at their next meetings to allay concerns.”

Ms Patel said she would lay his report on small boat migrants in parliament “as soon as possible” but did not give a date.