13:26, April 15 63 0 theguardian.com

2018-04-15 13:26:04
A Home Office humanity test

The behaviour of the Home Office and its agents in ignoring law and human decency as catalogued by Gary Younge (A cruel system designed to rob citizens of their Britishness, 13 April) is an example of the tendency for people’s legal entitlements to take second place to administrative convenience.

Back in the 1970s, there was a major scandal when, after the identification of a systematic underpayment of war pensions, someone in the war pensions branch of the DHSS took the decision, on administrative grounds, not to identify, correct and pay arrears to anyone who had been underpaid, only adjusting payment for war pensioners who raised the matter themselves.

After an inquiry, the department issued a report entitled “Legal Entitlements and Administrative Practices” (LEAP). Unusually, they distributed it throughout the department and all managers (even lowly executive officers like me) were expected to ensure that all staff were aware of its content.

The gist of the report was that legal entitlement always trumps administrative convenience. Furthermore, it pointed out that anyone who was party to an agreement to follow a procedure that would result in someone being deprived of their legal entitlement could be deemed to be part of a criminal conspiracy. As far as I know, the LEAP guidance has never been withdrawn – and I’m pretty sure that no judge has ruled against its content.

Amber Rudd, and Theresa May before her, is evidently as determined to persist with procedures which she must know will prevent many people receiving their full legal entitlements. Perhaps someone with better legal credentials than me – preferably in the Crown Prosecution Service – should consider pointing out to them that by so doing they are putting themselves at the head of a criminal conspiracy.

Keith Williams

Wrexham

I am appalled at the racist and discriminatory behaviour of the Home Office towards law-abiding Commonwealth citizens highlighted by Gary Younge. A similarly brutish attitude informs the quite unreasonable ban on studying for asylum seekers in the new 201 bail forms. Both contravene the spirit and the letter of the Human Rights Act. The system must be changed. These people are doing or have done valuable jobs from which the whole of society has benefited. Many of the asylum seekers who are treated so badly would make valuable members of society too, just as the third group, hardworking EU citizens, are being made to feel unwelcome.

It is time we genuinely welcomed people and abandoned completely the PM’s “hostile environment” agenda. I propose that the Home Office is required to apply a “common humanity” test before every asylum claim or immigration case is decided. The government’s own “Friends and family” test used for NHS feedback would make a good starting point.

Edward Milner

(Sante Refugee Mental Health Access Project) London

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