Home Office defends ex-asylum chief against 'chief policy blocker' jibe

Criticism of Emma Haddad rejected following her move to Amnesty International UK
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By Tevye Markson

30 Aug 2023

The Home Office has defended a former senior official who has taken up a role with pro-migrant charity Amnesty International UK against criticism that she tried to thwart asylum policy whilst at the department.

Emma Haddad, who was the Home Office’s director general for asylum until October, was described by an anonymous source as having been the “chief blocker” of ministers’ policies in a report by The Telegraph.

A Home Office spokesperson defended the ex-official, saying: “Anonymous briefings against former staff do not reflect the commitment to public service and delivering the government’s policy agenda that civil servants bring to work every day, guided by the civil service code.”

Haddad, who is chief executive of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, has joined Amnesty International UK in an unpaid, part-time trustee role. Responding to the anonymous comments, she told The Telegraph: “As with any civil servant, my job was to serve the government of the day. All civil servants must abide by the civil service code and uphold the civil service’s core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.”

Amnesty International’s UK division has campaigned against the government’s policies aimed at halting illegal boat crossings, including the controversial Rwanda scheme. The charity has described the Illegal Migration Act, which became law in July, as “inhumane, racist and divisive”.

The act aims to reduce small boat crossings by preventing those who arrive in the UK illegally from claiming asylum and moving them either to their home country or a third country like Rwanda.

Haddad's appointment was given the go-ahead by the the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, with some caveats, in an advisory letter. The watchdog said she must not lobby the government for two years and must not make use, directly or indirectly, of her contacts gained during her time in government to influence policy, secure business or funding or otherwise unfairly advantage AIUK. 

In evidence submitted to Acoba, the Home Office said Haddad would have acquired knowledge of Home Office strategic thinking on matters relating to asylum and immigration, which could give the charity a competitive advantage as a lobbying organisation.

The Home Office said it "did not have concerns with the appointment, but reiterated the importance of Dr Haddad not using her previous role in office to provide AIUK with an unfair advantage as a lobbying organisation", according to Acoba's letter. Haddad told the watchdog she will not have contact with the government in the role, which will be "inwardly focused". 

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