Home Office immigrant removal targets: what we know

European Union flags fly near the Elizabeth Tower housing the Big Ben bell in central London Britain

Home secretary Amber Rudd faced yet more calls to resign on Thursday as she said she was not aware the United Kingdom set targets for the voluntary removal of illegal immigrants.

MPs have said the targets could have led to enforcement officers to target "low-hanging fruit" - people living in the United Kingdom legally but without the correct documents, like numerous "Windrush generation" - a term referring to people invited to Britain to plug labour shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, some of whom have since been labelled as illegal immigrants.

A report published by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration showed that for 2014/15 the Home Office set a target of 7,200 Voluntary Departures for illegal immigrants.

"I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people".

Appearing before a Home Affairs Select Committee, Rudd faced repeated calls for his resignation from figures including her shadow equivalent in Labour's Diane Abbott.

Ms Rudd became Home Secretary - taking over from Theresa May - in 2016, a year after the last known targets were set.

Rudd said at a lunch with reporters in parliament that it had been "a hard few weeks", but she was committed to the Home Office.

Ms Rudd said she had requested a full briefing on how performance was assessed, including the use of targets, and that she would update MPs afterwards.

She later added: "It is correct that I have asked for more removals to take place because I would like to see people who are here illegally removed".

She said the government's net migration target had been "translated down through the operational arm of the Home Office to a.net removals target that enforcement teams have to meet, so they are aiming to remove a certain number of individuals in any given month".

"Unfortunately, I was not aware of [the targets]", Rudd said Thursday.

Upon questioning, Ms Rudd replied: "We don't have targets for removals".

For nearly two years, Ms Rudd has led a department that has been threatening deportation to thousands of people who have lived legally in the United Kingdom for decades.

"I do not want us to be run by a target culture".

What the scandalous Windrush saga has demonstrated is that the Home Office simply isn't fit to be left in charge of who comes in and out of this country. The answer may lie in the power dynamics at the top of government being so delicately poised, that if one big hitter like Rudd was to go, it could signal the collapse of Prime Minister Theresa May's house of cards, and with it the real prospect of a general election or a leadership challenge.

Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, had told the MPs a national target, broken down regionally, had been set to remove people in the United Kingdom illegally, and staff were under "increasing pressure".

The hotline has received 3,800 calls, the Home Office has said, with 1,364 identified as potential Windrush cases to be called back.

The crisis has focused attention on May, who as interior minister set out to create a "really hostile environment" for illegal immigrants, imposing tough new requirements in 2012 for people to prove their legal status.

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