'Sex-for-asylum' scandal breaks at immigration HQ

Senior official targeted teenage rape victim and offered to fix her case in return for sex
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Indy Politics

James Dawute, who works at Lunar House in Croydon, south London, picked the 18-year-old Zimbabwean girl out of a queue of asylum seekers and asked for her telephone number. It is alleged in a report in The Observer that the 53-year-old made it clear in text messages and mobile phone calls that he was attracted to her and asked for her bank details so he could put money into her account.

These "sex-for-asylum" allegations involving a senior official at the UK's largest immigration processing centre are the latest in a series of crises to face the Government, which is already under fire for allowing hundreds of foreign prisoners to be released from jail without being considered for deportation.

New figures show that nearly a third of foreign criminals targeted by immigration officials in the wake of the deportation scandal will never be removed from this country. A detailed analysis of 43 cases where convicted foreign nationals have been issued with deportation notices has revealed that at least 15 have genuine grounds to appeal against removal, according to research by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC).

The new case is the second time this year that staff at Lunar House have been at the centre of sleaze allegations. In January, ministers had to order an investigation into revelations published in The Sun that some officials were propositioning female visa applicants and allowing them to jump the queue.

Only two months ago, an official report into the behaviour of staff at Lunar House called for an overhaul of practices to prevent similar abuses occurring again. The inquiry found that, since 1997, at least four cases had been investigated in which visa applicants claimed they had been asked for sex.

In this latest case, Mr Dawute told the teenager, whose name is given as Tanya, that he wanted "to go to bed" with her after meeting up with her at a café at Croydon railway station last Wednesday. During the 90-minute conversation which then took place over lunch at a local noodle bar, the immigration official, a father-of-four, claimed he knew "how to win her case" after she discussed having sex with him in return for his help. When asked for guarantees that he could help her, he tells her to come to a hotel with him and that he would be able to obtain a Ghanaian passport for her.

At their lunch meeting, the civil servant, who has five years experience in the Immigration Nationality Directorate, said he was "going to make love " to the teenager, who came to the UK in 2003 to enter into what she claims was a forced marriage.

Opposition MPs have expressed their concern at these latest revelations which will cause major embarrassment to John Reid, the Home Secretary. Officials are already reeling after it emerged on Friday that illegal immigrants had been working in the Home Office for years.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "It's doubly shocking that the Government had already been warned of such goings on. Their inquiries neither caught any transgressors nor clearly did it prevent this shameful practice going on."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "This kind of case is the worst mixture of sexual exploitation and grotesque bullying imaginable and needs to be rooted out instantly."

Last night, the Home Office confirmed that it had suspended Mr Dawute and had launched an inquiry into the case.

An official said: "If these allegations are true they are very serious. An official has been suspended pending a full investigation by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. It expects the highest levels of integrity from its staff and any suspicions of corruption are investigated fully."

The sting: 'You are going to have sex'

'Tanya', the asylum claimant from Zimbabwe, met James Dawute, a chief immigration officer with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, in Croydon last Wednesday. She was wired with a hidden microphone and the following is a partial transcript of their encounter:

He says he is taking her out for the evening.

Tanya: What about your wife? I'm scared.

Dawute: Don't worry.

He had previously told her to bring a statement outlining her case.

Tanya: So if you get that statement would you be able to put it into my file?

Dawute: Yeah.

Tanya: That's fine then.Won't they think it's suspicious? I fear you will get into trouble.

Dawute: No.

Tanya: Obviously you might not be interested in having sex with me. You just want a relationship with me ­ that's totally fine with me. Are you able to sort me out? When I last spoke to you, you said you could handle things for me.

Dawute: I can handle it, don't worry.

She observes that two female officials vetted her at Lunar House (The IND HQ).

Tanya: Why were they were fighting to do it?

Dawute: 'Cos it's me.

Tanya: 'Cos you had said so?

Dawute: I am the king.

Tanya asks why she should go to a hotel room with Dawute.

Tanya: You didn't answer my question [on how he could guarantee to help her].

Dawute: I will tell you when we are alone. Because you are going to have sex...

Tanya: I can't go through with it until you guarantee you'll do something for me...

Dawute: Do you trust me?

Tanya: That's the thing ...

Dawute: I keep my word...

Tanya: That you you are going to sort something out... It's not easy for me to jump in with another man.

Dawute: I want to make you my wife.

Tanya: You want to make me your wife?

Dawute: That's why I want you to leave Birmingham. My people will come to where you live.

Tanya: Why?

Dawute: So they keep an eye on you.

Tanya: Why should they keep an eye on me?...How [will you] know where I live?

Dawute: As soon as I push a disc in the system...I want to make sure you are safe.

Tanya: I'm safe already. You are the one making me feel unsafe 'cos you are trying to take me to a hotel and I don't know what you are going to do to me.

Dawute: I am going to tell you.

Tanya: What intention do you have?

Dawute: I'm going to make love to you.