It may be time to send the Home Office home


The incompetence of Home Office immigration staff this century has been truly extraordinary. They have not been fit for purpose in a generation.

Almost anybody desperate enough to want to live in this declining country has been faced with truculence, inefficiency, pointless complications, hostility and, most of all, inhumanity. From the Balkan wars, through Windrush, Syria, Afghanistan, Belarus and now Ukraine catastrophes, the Home Office says ‘niet‘ with Soviet enthusiasm.

It has not mattered who the ministers have been since the last decent one, probably Douglas Hurd – none have emerged from their posts with reputations other than tarnished – the jobs-worthies actually making the decisions have dragged their feet and done everything they can think of to make the process of getting to Britain miserable.

Only part of this has been because of party policy. Yes, the Conservative Party has been slavish to its members’ and supporters’ fear of foreigners. Yes, the Labour Party has realised that many white working class men – the old guard of the trade unions – were often just as antipathetic. Even so, systems could have been built to allay their fears without turning the Home Office into the Department for International Hatred. The experience of almost anyone except Russian billionaires trying to come to Britain has been thoroughly demeaning and unpleasant.

The question needs to be asked, what sort of person applies to work in the immigration and border services, and how are staff selected and trained? The suspicion is that the answer to the first part is people with no empathy or imagination about how it feels to move away from home, not for fun but because of necessity.

Are recruits predominantly from the outer suburbs of our cities, the white hinterland of the poorer parts of the home counties, from communities convinced that ‘they’ (the incomers) are deliberately coming to Britain to disrupt the lives of the inept locals? Is the answer to the second part that the officials leading the recruitment are looking for employees who will put every obstacle in the way of requests to cross the sea?

Not every immigration official is stone-hearted but, even when they are not, the systems and protocols they are told to administer are designed for ‘no’ to be the default response. This has to change and immediately (not in several weeks, which is what government departments usually call immediate).

There is a way of doing this while the most begrudging staff, top and bottom, are ushered into early retirement, computer systems are rebuilt, and new officials with a more modern frame of mind and different views are brought in. The Home Office should be relieved of responsibility for consular affairs.

Instead, the job, with real consular staff (not Border Force by another name) supervised by the FCO, which has a vested interest in not pissing the world off all the time, should issue visas for nationals of countries at war, whether civil or international. The presumption of kindness, and the need for instant care, should be paramount. If there are concerns about potential security issues from a tiny minority, then MI5 and the police can be given the resources to deal with them.

All other visas can be dealt with by the Department for Work and Pensions or, for students, by the Department for Education – the offer of a place at a recognised institution being enough for automatic entry. As happens to most British visitors to most nations of the world, a tourist stamp on the passport should be automatic at the port of entry on production of a return reservation.

No more of the ghastly regimes of Patel, May, Reid, Blunkett and Straw, please. Just learn to say ‘welcome’.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.


  1. Trin Gong says

    While I agree that visa processing should be treated with far more kindness (but also modernised because this country really needs to digitise properly), as someone who has worked in central Government (albeit in Australia), I don’t think that devolving this to other departments for different types of visas is a good idea. At the best of times government departments do not communicate well, and as you inevitably will have visas that need crossover discussion, this method would simply cause a lot of unnecessary chaos and more likely more contentious decisions.

    From my experience living in Canberra and knowing many public servants, one of the big problems with the Immigration office staffing is that you’re correct, it’s not an attractive job (although neither is processing unemployment benefits in the Australian DWP equivalent) but also many of the people who do it simply do not have the skills to process and understand some of the (complicated) high up policies. Some of those policies themselves are inconsistent because successive governments and policy makers don’t necessarily think these through properly.

    It’s a bit gloomy to leave it at that, but overall I think you’re right, it takes someone smart, practical (perhaps with experience themselves) and a lot of empathy to design an immigration system that is kind, efficient and works well. Mistakes will always be made, but systems can be designed so that these errors can be caught before they become catastrophic. The question is, is anyone who currently has the power to do this capable of achieving this? I’ll leave that one for you to answer! 🙂

  2. Stephen Gwynne says

    The presumption of kindness and humanitarianism that the author self righteously feels they possess is no such thing. It is simply displaced misanthropy.

    Population growth in the massively ecologically deficit UK means an increase in import dependencies which invariably translates as militia mediated corporate land grabbing abroad. This always results in forced displacement, slum urbanisation, deforestation, increased co2 emissions and illegal immigration to escape the internecine wars that have been primarily motivated by virtue signalling moral baiting misanthropists like this author.

    The Home Office is the most difficult of all the State ministries because it is the ministry that has to make decisions based on ecological rationality which is made all the more harder whilst faux humanitarian bigots are carping from the sidelines with their ecology blind, humanity blind and energy blind moral baiting sentiments.

    When the author learns to live in the real world of national ecological capacities and ecological trade offs due to import dependencies, he then might learn some respect for the life death decisions that the Home Office must make.

    Meanwhile all faux humanitarian ecological bigots are doing with their disgusting level of ignorance by not acknowledging the different ecological deficits of different national countries is escalating the global ecological crisis.

    Shame on you!

  3. Bob McDowall says

    The Home Office should be broken into smaller Departments. It has too many diffuse responsibilities. Broadly 3-4 Ministries:

    * Internal Security and Policing
    * Immigration and Passports covering all aspects of permits for residency ,refuge,
    * Licensing covering all forms of licensing -TV/Motor Vehicles/Dogs/Firearms and the plethora of other permits required for daily conduct of life and business

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