The Home Office’s hostile environment is a misguided attempt to deal with an imaginary problem – the refugee crisis – to please a minority of extremist Conservative voters. This hostility has massive and wide-reaching negative consequences.
The institutional ‘bullying tactics’ of this hostile environment clearly stem from Home Secretary Priti Patel’s record at the Home Office. Several allegations of bullying were upheld against her. An enquiry into the allegations by the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial standards concluded that Patel had broken the party’s code of conduct, which normally (but in this case didn’t) leads to sacking. When Patel was allowed to stay, Johnson’s adviser resigned.
Vulnerable targets of Home Office bullying
Many of the people suffering the consequences of Home Office hostility are among the most vulnerable in terms of mental health. They come from situations of great trauma and have made long, arduous, and traumatic journeys, only to be met and treated with hostility.
I have seen first-hand the devastating consequences to mental health for people seeking sanctuary.
A friend of mine, who had appeared quite stable, was reduced to a visibly shaking wreck, a shadow of his former self by a week in Moreton Hall detention centre. He was later released. He will no longer be sent to the EU as the Dublin III scheme no longer works. Years later, he still awaits consideration of his case.
Several of my other friends endure weeks of severe anxiety every time they are required to go to sign at the Home Office centre in Leeds. At each visit, they fear detention and possible deportation. Oppression and fear are the intended consequences of Patel’s and the department’s bullying tactics.
This week, an official report from the government’s Inspectorate of Borders and Immigration revealed that Home Office decision makers are untrained, ill informed, and overburdened. They are under pressure to refuse asylum claims, irrespective of the strength of their cases.
Delays in the asylum system are steadily increasing
The only time I have seen the hostile environment actually ‘succeed’, as intended by Patel, was when I witnessed a very elderly couple – of which one had a critical heart condition – decide that returning home (where their lives were at real risk) was the only way forward for them. It was heart breaking to say goodbye to them. The Home Office counted that as a win for their hostile environment.
Anger is not the best reaction; that only encourages bullies like the home secretary. Compassion on our part towards those suffering under a hostile system exposes the bankruptcy of a hostile agenda from a government who are using playground tactics of lying and bullying.
We are better than that.