Immigration corruption 'is rife'
July 27, 2006
The immigration service has faced a series of corruption claims
The immigration system is “shot through with incompetence and corruption” and should face a full independent inquiry, says Conservative Damian Green.
It comes after newspaper reports an immigration officer was helping asylum seekers remain in Britain for cash.
Home Secretary John Reid said the claims would be investigated.
But Mr Green, the shadow immigration minister, said it was clearly not an isolated incident and there should be a full independent inquiry.
His call comes after an immigration official allegedly told an undercover Sun reporter he charged up to 2,000 for helping people to get refugee status.
He also claimed he helped asylum seekers of other nationalities pretend they were Zimbabweans because the Home Office had a ban on deporting people to Zimbabwe, the Sun reported.
Mr Green said that after the recent “sex for visas” case at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's (IND) Croydon headquarters the Sun story was “shocking but not surprising”.
“It looks as though the immigration department is riddled with corruption,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
“One of the key things is that we need a full independent inquiry, (the government) did an internal inquiry last time and we said this might be a whitewash. It shows that we were right.”
Mr Green warned: “One of the problems is that morale in that department was already low and is now absolutely at rock bottom after John Reid's attack on it and it is in failing institutions like that that you tend to get corruption like this.”
And he added: “The immigration system is completely out of control. There are so many loopholes in it that it is shot through with incompetence and corruption and all the loopholes are exploited by criminals.
“We now discover that loopholes are being exploited internally by corrupt officials. It is a very, very urgent problem because this matters in the real world.
“This means there are many hundreds of thousands of people in this country who shouldn't be here who the authorities can't trace properly.”
According to the Sun, immigration officer Joseph Dzumbira, from Southend in Essex, said he could provide fake Zimbabwean arrest warrants to support asylum seekers' claims that they would be in danger if they were returned.
Mr Dzumbira told the newspaper: “I know Zimbabwean asylum seekers avoid proper security checks.”
Zimbabwe-born Mr Dzumbira has worked at the IND's Lunar House headquarters for seven years, according to the newspaper.
He told the undercover reporter he had already helped a “couple of hundred” asylum seekers in this way.
Commenting on the allegations, Home Secretary John Reid said: “We take all allegations of corruption seriously and we will investigate them.
“Where serious we will refer them for prosecution.”
IND director general Lin Homer said: “The last reported incident of corruption at the IND led to a sacking and is now under criminal investigation.
“The Home Office will not tolerate fraud and corruption from its staff. We take these allegations very seriously and will investigate immediately.”
She said the “biggest shake-up in IND's history” had just been announced including a “fundamental overhaul of management structures” and a new director of enforcement.
“We expect the highest standards of integrity from IND staff, and will not settle for anything less,” added Ms Homer.
Figures released to Parliament earlier this month show 127 IND staff were sacked for misconduct or failing to do their jobs properly between January last year and May this year.
Reasons for the sackings include poor performance but at least 15 followed allegations of corruption so serious they had to be investigated by the police.
The Home Office said the sackings reflected a determination to root out misconduct and corruption.
Commenting on the latest allegations, UK Independence Party leader Roger Knapman said the Home Office had become “nothing more than a comedy routine”.
“The whole of this wretched government department is rotten to the core,” said Mr Knapman.
And he criticised the reforms announced this week by John Reid as “meaningless spin with no real substance”.