Department has admitted that it hid the policy due to concerns about former PM’s reaction
Theresa May is to confront the Home Office after it was found to have kept an “appalling” asylum policy secret, amid internal fears that its approach would be attacked by the former prime minister and other senior politicians.
In an extraordinary finding, the high court concluded last week that the Home Office had operated a secret policy that affected the asylum rights of at least 1,500 people found to be genuine victims of trafficking and modern slavery.
It heard that ministers had secretly opted not to implement a court ruling stating that confirmed victims of trafficking and modern slavery should be given leave to remain in the UK while their asylum claims were pending. The Home Office instead “held” such cases for months, barring those affected from work, renting, opening a bank account or accessing mainstream benefits.
During the case, an internal Home Office memo showed that officials were concerned about “how this [policy] will be viewed by both stakeholders and senior parliamentarians, specifically Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Rt Hon Mrs Theresa May”. Both May, a former prime minister and home secretary, and Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader, have campaigned on behalf of modern slavery victims.
Another disclosure from the Home Office showed an official warning that automatically handing such a right to trafficking victims would have “significant operational implications” and was likely to impact “our ability to clear the asylum legacy backlog by the end of December 2023”. Rishi Sunak had pledged to clear the backlog by the end of that year.