Following Windrush and the TOEIC exam scandal where 34,000 international students were accused of cheating in English language tests in 2014 as part of the renewal visa process, it comes as no surprise that the Home Office has found itself yet again swept up in another contentious scandal. The Home Office is now under fire for adopting a process which could result in migrant applications receiving a damning and discriminatory bias, without any fair say in the matter.
Whilst all visa applications should be reviewed on the basis of merit and evidence, this can understandably be time consuming for the caseworker at the Home Office. Therefore in attempt to be more efficient, the Home Office has adopted a process in which a secretive algorithm is applied when processing visa applications. Despite the fact that this streaming tool seems like a logical solution in processing the high volume of applications received, the refusal by the Home Office to provide any details about the variables used to assess the risk is a concern.
As quoted in FT.com, "a department spokesperson declined to answer any questions about how the algorithm operates, saying only that it complies with equalities legislation and does not stream “on the basis of race”."
Given the number of Home Office scandals that has been revealed in recent years, and the hostile stance taken by the Home Secretary, it is hard to accept this statement without any contest. Questions need to be asked about the structure of the algorithm, and whether it is discriminating applications based on generic markers such as country of origin, nationality or age. Failing to acknowledge the potential danger of a discriminatory system is another example of the Home Office sending the wrong international message to the world. We need to be forthcoming in stating that the UK welcomes the brightest, talented and skilled migrants. The current Home Secretary should and must act fast with purpose and give the current UK immigration system a new make-over.