In a damning report, David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said his force had been able to employ less than half the number of inspectors that it is supposed to.
25 inspectors are supposed to work as part of the body but only 11 were in post at the end of March 2019.
In his annual report, Mr Bolt wrote: “For most of the year, the inspectorate operated with well under its complement of 30 staff. For the last few months of 2018‑19 only half of the inspector posts were filled.”
Describing staffing as “a problem throughout the year”, he said the organisation was supposed to employ 30 people, including 25 inspectors, throughout 2018-19 . However, it began the year with just 23 staff, of which only 18 were inspectors.
During the year, 11 inspectors left and a further five had to go on leave for various reasons. Some were replaced but the organisation ended the 2018-19 year with just 11 inspectors.
While some replacements have since been recruited, Mr Bolt said the inspectorate would be “significantly under strength for at least the first half of 2019-20”.
Mr Bolt also claimed that his work has “slipped down the agenda” at the Home Office, highlighting the fact that he had just one meeting with Sajid Javid, the home secretary, last year.
He said: “During 2018-19, I had just one meeting with the home secretary and two with the immigration minister. While I recognise the considerable pressures on ministers, particularly over this period, this added to my sense that the [inspectorate’s] work had slipped down the agenda.”
The chief inspector also criticised Home Office delays in publish the inspectorate’s reports.