The beleaguered home secretary was forced into an embarrassing apology on Thursday after telling MPs: “We don’t have targets for removals” – later insisting she had not known they existed.
But the Home Office memo says her department set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18” and boasts that “we have exceeded our target of assisted returns”.
It states that progress has been made on a “path towards the 10 per cent increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the home secretary earlier this year”.
Crucially, the six-page document, seen by The Guardian, was copied to Ms Rudd and Brandon Lewis, the then immigration minister, after being prepared by the head of the immigration enforcement agency in June last year.
David Lammy, the Labour MP who has led criticism of the Windrush scandal, told The Independent: “Yesterday I asked the home secretary whether she still thought she was the right person to lead the Home Office. She should now reconsider her answer in light of this.”
And Diane Abbott MP, the shadow home secretary, said: “Amber Rudd either failed to read this memo, and has no clear understanding of the policies in her own department, or she has misled parliament and the British people.
“Either way, she needs to accept responsibility and resign immediately.”
Ms Rudd has been clinging to her job since denying, on Wednesday, that targets for deportations were used, as pressure grew over the Windrush scandal.
But a 2015 inspection report said the practice did exist, prompting the home secretary to scrap the very targets she had – just a day earlier – denied were in operation.
At a lunch with journalists in Westminster she admitted she was fighting for her political career, telling the gathering she was “just thinking about staying in the game”.
Now the leaked memo states that 12,503 enforced returns were achieved in 2016-17, which was regarded as a “success” given a high number of late claims for asylum.
It says the higher target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18 had been set because of “the redistribution of resources towards this area”.
“This will move us along the path towards the 10 per cent increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the home secretary earlier this year,” the memo adds.
The memo also provides information on “assisted returns”, where someone has left the country voluntarily on a flight paid for by the British government.
“Typically these will be our most vulnerable returnees,” it says. “We have exceeded our target of assisted returns. We set an internal target of 1,250 of these returns for 2016-17 … we delivered 1,581.”
The home secretary, her special adviser and the Home Office’s permanent secretary and second permanent secretary are all named as having received copies of the findings.
The Guardian said it had been told that the briefing was one of several to have been circulated in the Home Office in recent months discussing the target culture.
The Home Office has been asked for a response to the document.
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