ICO probes Home Office over immigration system woes

After suffering various ‘IT incidents’ over a period of months, regulators are now on the case as a Guardian investigation reports that tens of thousands of people have been affected

The UK’s data-protection watchdog is investigating the Home Office after months of “IT incidents” have reportedly led to tens of thousands of people being listed with incorrect information in government’s core immigration database.

The Atlas caseworking system is replacing the 24-year-old Case Information Database (CID). This process was originally due to be completed by the end of 2021. But statistics published last month by government indicate that, while “the majority of asylum and resettlement data has transitioned from the Home CID to the new Atlas system, data is [still] transitioning in stages”.

Ministers have previously admitted that, from summer 2022 onwards, Atlas was “impacted by a number of unrelated IT incidents”. But, in April of last year, then immigration minister Robert Jenrick said that, following “a programme of IT stabilisation…  the total number of incidents being raised in early 2023 has fallen by more than half and IT support continues to focus on resolving the underlying issues”.

But, according to a report in the Guardian, Atlas continues be beset by significant challenges. According to documents seen by newspaper, an issue of “merged identities” has led to more than 76,000 people’s records in the database featuring incorrect details, including names and photographs, as well as immigration status.

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Those affected by the problems have reportedly found themselves unable to prove their rights to live, work, and access NHS treatment in the UK.

A spokesperson for the Home Office claimed that only about 0.02% of people featured on the database have been impacted.

“Steps have been taken to mitigate any risks for people and address the issues as quickly as possible,” they added.

A representative of the Information Commissioner’s Office indicated that the regulator had been alerted to the department’s problems with the immigration system and is now examining the issues more closely.

“People’s trust in a system relies on them being sure their information is being kept securely and accurately,” a spokesperson said. “The ICO is investigating this issue, following a report to us by the Home Office.”

Sam Trendall

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