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26 Oct 2023

Hajar Meddah and Emiliano Mellino, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Watchdog criticises Home Office for dropping farm worker visa review

The head of the independent watchdog for immigration has criticised the Home Office for failing to publish a promised review of the UK’s seasonal worker scheme.

David Neal, the government-appointed independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, made the comments after the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) discovered that the Home Office no longer plans to conduct and publish the review he called for last year.

Concerns about exploitation in the seasonal workers scheme, he said, “make transparency particularly important,” said Neal, a former head of the military police. “It would be very disappointing if, after accepting my recommendation in full, the Home Office did not fulfil its commitment.”...

In December 2022, Neal published the findings of his inspection into the seasonal worker visa programme. The report made three recommendations, including an “overdue review” of the scheme. The Home Office agreed and anticipated the process would be complete by April 2023.

After the review failed to materialise, 10 non-profit organisations and academics wrote letters to the immigration minister Robert Jenrick, calling for the review to be published and for fairer recruitment practices in the scheme.

Responding, Jenrick stated there were no plans to publish reviews of the scheme, as they were of “limited value”. Earlier commitments to ensuring the scheme protected migrant workers from modern slavery, he wrote, “in no way committed the Home Office to producing ongoing reports in perpetuity”...