JACK STRAW told MPs yesterday he "greatly regretted" the chaos in the Immigration Service, which he said represented the greatest management challenge faced by the Home Office.
"I greatly regret the fact that the service has deteriorated as much as it has," the Home Secretary said before MPs on the Commons Special Standing Committee.
Mr Straw, who will today visit immigration headquarters in Croydon, south London, explained to MPs that the move of the headquarters from Lunar House to new offices near by had created major problems for staff, and said that an arrangement with the private company Siemens in 1996 to install a new computer system was "well behind schedule".
The Home Secretary's visit will coincide with a report by the National Audit Office into immigration headquarters, which is expected to be highly critical.
However, Mr Straw said he did not think the chaos was sufficiently worrying to reduce the target set in the Asylum Bill for dealing with future applications within six months. He also defended the proposals for denying asylum seekers cash benefits and instead giving them benefits in kind. He said the costs of such a system were justified by the number of non-genuine applicants who would be deterred by the lack of cash incentives.
Earlier, immigration officials had told the committee that the use of "intelligence-led passenger profiling" was bringing about a culture of institutional racism.
John Tincey, information director of the Immigration Service Union, said passengers were increasingly being targeted on account of their race or nationality. "Selectivity in immigration control amounts to stereotyping and little else... This is precisely the kind of institutionalised racism as defined by the Macpherson report."
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