The Home Office has been hit by more confusion about its immigration policy after a row over deportation “targets”.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said she was unaware of claims border staff were set “internal enforcement targets” – soon after her department’s chief immigration official also insisted the targets did not exist.
Ms Rudd’s comments to MPs came hours after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Ms Rudd to resign for her handling of the Windrush scandal.
The Home Secretary was answering questions at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee being held to discuss Windrush.
Hours earlier Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, was adamant there was a national deportations target – even broken down by region.
She told Sky News: “Net removal targets certainly do exist, and I’m somewhat bemused as to why the Home Secretary would say they do not exist.”
Ms Moreton added the targets were broken down by region and were plastered on posters all around Home Office buildings.
Committee member and Labour MP Stephen Doughty raised the claim again to Ms Rudd, but she said she had not seen the evidence.
Glynn Williams, the director general for border, immigration and citizenship, sitting beside her, said: “There are no published removal targets and there is nothing broken down by region, as far as I know.
“As an organisation obviously we look at management data and as removals go up and down, around regions, we will want to understand what is going on there.
“Clearly managers will be asked: ‘How many people have been removed – is it more or less?’
“I don’t know whether that is being interpreted as a target, but there are no targets per say.”
Several people affected by the Windrush scandal were sitting behind her during the nearly two-hour grilling.
Ms Rudd said she “became aware” of the Windrush issue “over the past few months” – despite action only being taken 10 days ago.
She said she “bitterly regrets” not seeing the individual cases as a “systemic issue”.
Asked why it took her so long after repeated media requests from reporters, the Home Secretary said: “We get a lot of journalists, newspapers and MPs giving us their advice. We try to follow up on them.”
The Home Secretary could also not provide an answer when she was asked how many Windrush family members had been wrongly detained.
Mr Corbyn accused her of “hardening” a “cruel and misdirected” policy towards immigrants.
Ms Rudd apologised last week for the Windrush scandal, blaming the Home Office for “sometimes losing sight of the individual”.