The Home Office is the wrong department to manage immigration after Brexit, says a highly critical report by the Institute for Government (IfG) thinktank.
The department is pressing ahead with the full rollout of a registration scheme for an estimated 3.8 million EU citizens from 30 March, but the report lays bare systemic flaws in the Home Office and calls for an “urgent” root-and-branch review of its immigration operations.
It says that ministers have relied on high-level political rhetoric about migration but have no clear policy. “Beyond that, the government has not put forward a detailed or coherent account of what it wants from immigration; instead, it has set blunt numerical targets that cannot be met,” the report says.
“The failure to make trade-offs, decide priorities and articulate objectives has damaged public confidence and made it impossible for government to run the system effectively,” it said, adding that the Home Office set up increases its ineffectiveness.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has already announced an independent review of immigration directorates in the wake of the Windrush scandal that cost his predecessor Amber Rudd her job.
Joe Owen, associate director at the IfG, said ministers “need to consider whether the Home Office is the right permanent home for a migration policy” that must serve the needs of the labour market, and be fair, efficient and inspire public confidence.
“Simply announcing a review is not a solution to the problems at the Home Office,” says the Managing Immigration After Brexit report.
It also pointed to other failings including:
• A disconnect between what politicians say and what the Home Office does.
• Unrealistic targets set by Theresa May.
• Policies based on politics rather than evidence, such as the widely criticised “hostile environment” introduced by May to scare immigrants into leaving voluntarily.