The Home Office taskforce set up to help the Windrush generation now has 150 staff members seconded from across the department to deal with cases where Commonwealth citizens have wrongly faced immigration issues, it has been revealed.
Home secretary Sajid Javid told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the taskforce formed to help the so-called Windrush generation – people granted leave to remain under the 1971 Immigration Act but who have faced challenges to their immigration status as a result of the 2014 Act – had so far helped 11 people to return to the UK who were previously wrongly denied re-entry to the country.
He also said it was handling 226 enquiries of this nature.
The so-called Windrush children came to the UK legally in the 1950s and 1960s but have since been threatened with deportation or denied access to public services because of uncertainty about their immigration status. This is due to changes in immigration rules requiring people to provide greater proof of their right to reside in order to work, rent property or access benefits and some public services.
Javid wrote to committee chair Yvette Cooper stating that staff have been seconded from other areas of UKVI, including Premium Service Centre, Citizenship, Work and Study commands. Around 100 staff are doing casework, while the remaining 50 people are running the helpline and outreach work.
Information on staff bonuses and targets, wrongful detentions other than Windrush cases, and the lessons learned review are to be provided to the Home Affairs Committee separately by the Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.
The letter comes after thae Information Commissioner said yesterday that it would be contacting the Home Office. The ICO will make enquiries after it emerged the department had never voluntarily self-referred to the data protection watchdog despite a former senior immigration official telling the Guardian that at one point the department was routinely losing thousands of personal files in immigration cases.
A Home Office spokesperson told the paper: “The Home Office takes its data protection responsibilities extremely seriously and have robust safeguards in place to make sure we handle the millions of documents we receive in the appropriate way.
“When documentation goes missing we make every effort to locate it. Each case should be reported to Home Office Security who will assess whether the Information Commissioner’s Office should be informed.”
The ICO said previously there had been no formal obligation to report data breaches, but the new data protection law that came into effect on 25 May requires breaches to be notified if they affect the rights and freedoms of individuals.
Javid also told Cooper that the department had recruited 80% of the staff it needs to deal with its European casework in UK Visas and Immigration following Brexit.
UKVI had hired 1,200 of the 1,500 caseworkers it needs to process applications for “settled status” from EU nationals currently living in the UK. This settlement scheme launches at the end of the year.
“Recruitment is underway to bring existing UKVI European casework staffing levels to approximately 1,500 ahead of the EU Exit Settlement Scheme launch at the end of this year,” Javid said in his letter.
“We are making good progress and already have over 1,200 who are either in post or have completed the recruitment process and are awaiting start dates.”