The Observer’s ‘sex for asylum’ investigation by Jamie Doward and Mark Townsend created a fair old amount of bother for the Home Office this week.
Our story revealed that a chief immigration officer at Lunar House, Croydon had offered to help an 18-year-old Zimbabwean rape victim with her asylum application and had made it clear he wanted to have sex with her.
Coming on top of the foreign prisoners fiasco, news of inmates absconding from open jails, immigrants working as cleaners in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (to name but a few headaches in John Reid‘s inbox), the story was very bad news for the department.
Several papers reported on the Observer’s exclusive on Sunday, and Monday saw, among many others, the Guardian and the Sun follow the story up. It also made waves in the blogosphere, and prompted a discussion by one blogger about how papers cover stories.
By Monday night, in the face of continued pressure, the immigration minister, Tony McNulty, had lost his job, in a Home Office shake up which is to see him ‘concentrate on the police as well as Home Office issues in parliament’.
But it doesn’t end there. The tale took a bizarre twist yesterday when the Sun reported that Dawute, now the subject of a police investigation, was himself an illegal immigrant, believed to have entered Britain legally from Ghana, but overstayed on a visa before being employed by the immigration service.
The Sun’s source added that he is here legally now. The Times reported that he had overstayed the terms of his entry in 1980s, but was later given British citizenship. the Home Office refused to comment on individual cases and we are still waiting to hear the outcome of the investigations.
In John Reid’s words, parts of the Home Office are ‘not fit for purpose’ and the crises within the department, as well as this particular story, don’t look like they’re going to end any time soon. Jamie Doward and Mark Townsend will of course be following developments in this week’s Observer.
There’s been a great deal of debate about whether John Reid is fit for the job of cleaning the mess up. What do you think? How can the Home Office put things right?