The immigration minister has said she wants to change the “computer says no” culture of the Home Office, after being confronted with evidence that up to 1,000 highly skilled immigrants face being deported for minor errors on their tax forms.
Giving evidence to MPs on the cross-party home affairs select committee, Caroline Nokes was asked about cases reported in the Guardian in which individuals have been put at risk of losing their indefinite leave to remain because of mistakes uncovered by HM Revenue & Customs.
The Labour MP John Woodcock said: “You must be horrified that people are being detained and facing removal for often minor discrepancies in their tax submissions, for which HMRC is not seeking enforcement action.”
Nokes replied: “I’m always concerned, particularly when it is people who have been contributing to this country, whether economically or culturally to our communities, as part of our communities, when we are not about performing to the best of our ability.”
She repeatedly called for what she described as a “culture change” in the Home Office. “It’s not about using rules to have a ‘computer says no’ mentality,” she said.
Pressed on whether she would carry out a review of the cases, Nokes said: “Yes. But I have to accept that this is a department that has an enormous workload, and my number one priority at the moment has been both on Windrush cases and people impacted by that, and also going forward why other cohorts of people might be similarly affected.”
The minister also told the MPs that Home Office officials were combing through the case files of 8,000 immigrants removed from Britain since 2002, to establish whether any have been caught up in the Windrush scandal.
She said her department had identified people of the relevant age and nationality, and was investigating whether they had been affected. This investigation is separate from the internal inquiry into the Windrush errors that has been announced by the new home secretary, Sajid Javid.