Amber Rudd has admitted that some immigration officers do use targets for the number of people they should deport, after denying it less than 24 hours ago.
The home secretary said she was not aware of the targets for deportations being used by some officers, when she told a committee of MPs on Wednesday “that’s not how we operate”.
Labour again called on Ms Rudd to resign as pressure intensified on her handling of the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal which saw people in the UK being wrongly targeted for deportation.
The cabinet minister was summoned to the Commons to explain why her comments to the committee hearing appeared to contradict evidence from another witness who said deportation targets are being used.
Ms Rudd told the chamber: “I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people.
“The immigration arm of the Home Office has been using local targets for internal performance management. These were not published targets against which performance was assessed, but if they are used inappropriately, then I am clear that this will have to change.”
She went on: “I have asked officials to provide me with a full picture of performance measurement tools which are used at all levels and will update the house and the Home Affairs Select Committee as soon as possible.”
Ms Rudd again repeated that she had not been aware of the targets being used by some officers, but then added: “I want to be aware of them.”
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, highlighted the resignation of former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, who quit after the Falklands were invaded saying it was “a matter of honour”.
She went on: “Isn’t it time that the home secretary considered her honour and resigned?”
Other Labour MPs also attacked Ms Rudd, including David Lammy who has been at the forefront of campaigning for those affected by the Windrush scandal.
The Tottenham MP said: “I asked the minister at the last urgent question how many people had been deported, she said she didn’t know. I asked her how many people had been imprisoned in our own country, she said she didn’t know.
“There are impact statements that have been ignored. There are letters from MPs and she said she wasn’t aware of a pattern.
“We now understand that people have been removed because of targets, and she said she didn’t know. I say with all conscience, is she really the right person to lead this office of state?”
Ms Rudd said that there was an “element of surprise” in the systemic nature of the problem around the Windrush victims, but argued that she had worked to address the issues raised by Mr Lammy after they were brought to her attention.
Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, she said she had asked for more removals of illegal immigrants to take place, but was not familiar with a suggestion from a union official that regional targets were in place.
She said: “We don’t have targets for removals ... If you are asking me if there are numbers of people we expect to be removed that’s not how we operate.”
Earlier Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, had told the same MPs a national target, broken down regionally, had been set to remove people in the UK illegally, and staff were under “increasing pressure”.
She said the government’s net migration target had been “translated down through the operational arm of the Home Office to ... a net removals target that enforcement teams have to meet, so they are aiming to remove a certain number of individuals in any given month”.
Ms Rudd has rejected suggestions that the Conservatives’ goal of reducing net migration below 100,000 had contributed to the Windrush problem.
The government has set up a taskforce to help those affected by the Windrush scandal formalise their status, with 3,800 calls made to the helpline, of which 1,364 were potentially Windrush cases.
Critics say the implementation of the “hostile environment” policy, set out in immigration laws passed while Ms May was at the Home Office, has meant children who came to the UK from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the late 1940s to the 1970s have faced being targeted by immigration officers for deportation.
The policy has seen people needing to prove their citizenship with documentary evidence before being able to work, rent homes or receive medical treatment, even if they have been in the country for many years.
Often children who travelled to the UK on parents’ passports during the Windrush period did not apply for travel documents, and so lack a trail of official paperwork.
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