Labour have won by a landslide, now it’s time to abolish the Home Office

Labour have won by a landslide, now it’s time to abolish the Home Office
This new government needs to set out a radical new agenda, not slot obediently into the existing, failed system argues JCWI’s Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah.

After 14 years under a Conservative government, many are welcoming change but as a migrants rights charity, we have no choice but to temper our optimism. This government has an opportunity to transform the way we treat migrants in this country - but they have their work cut out and we will only celebrate when we see progressive policies that make our clients lives better.

Like others in the migrants’ rights sector, we recognise that simply changing who stands at the top of the Home Office isn’t enough – there is a cancer of distrust, disbelief and outright hostility that pervades the Home Office when it comes to people who choose to come here to make this country their home. In recent times, the Home Office has presided over multiple scandals from the 2018 Windrush Scandal to the go home vans, to making Refugees homeless, to their latest move of forcing migrants onto eVisas which, we fear, will become the next big scandal.

On top of all this, the day-to-day functioning of the Home Office is one of pure brutality, which prioritises immigration enforcement through data sharing with police, local authorities, and public services over everyone’s safety and wellbeing. Surely the clue should be in the name, yet our ‘Home’ Office does everything it can to make people feel as unwelcome and not at home as possible.

Instead of being a state department which aims to help people build a life in our country and enrich our society, the Home Office works to financially exploit the most vulnerable with opaque administrative costs and extortionate application fees, forcing people into destitution.

In 14 years, we have seen the position of Home Secretary change hands eight times. Home Secretary’s have come and gone, but the culture of disbelief, the inability to retain staff and the day-to-day toxicity of operations stays the same. A new government and a new Home Secretary bring no guarantee of change and if the last 14 years are anything to go by, it’s more likely that there will be much more of the same cruelty.

It is real people that bear the brunt of the Home Office’s incompetence and cruelty. They are our friends, our families, our neighbours. The suffering our clients have faced is endless. From mental breakdowns caused by Home Office questioning, to being pushed to suicidal thoughts. From the moment they set foot on our shores, whether that’s after paying extortionate visa fees or risking their lives to reach our country, the Home Office treats those who come here as the enemy and shows no empathy for those in greatest need.

Others are languishing the system, left in limbo for years with no access to public support or ability to seek work, they are forced into a life of poverty, relying on the fragile safety net of charities like ours. We see their light dim - they come here full of hope, but years of struggling with a Kafkaesque system wears them down.

It's clear that the Home Office needs a major overhaul, the hostility towards those who come to this country to live and work is institutionalised. It is going to take some serious labour (pardon the pun) to dismantle that. We don’t need a new government to come in with ‘variations on a theme of cruelty’- the Home Office needs overhauling, not tweaking.

The Home Office’s mission statement states it, “works to build a safe, fair and prosperous UK.” By its own measure, it has failed on all accounts.

It’s time to end the abuse of power by the Home Office and the way to do this is a complete restructuring. It is time to conduct a review of the UK’s entire asylum system, to listen to the experts, and to create humane asylum processing body independent of the Home Office.

This new government needs to set out a radical new agenda, not slot obediently into the existing, failed system. We have a new government, what we need now is a new Home Office.

Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah is Communications Director at JCWI.

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