Home Office bolsters immigration PR team

The Home Office has beefed up its chief immigration PR post to boost public confidence in the system in the face of a sceptical press.

The newly created communications director post at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) in Croydon absorbs the duties of soon-to-retire deputy communications director Sue McDougal, and places a stronger emphasis on stakeholder relations.

The Home Office's immigration department works with local councils, passport control staff, the National Asylum Support Service and other public bodies and NGOs.

'We are not like other Whitehall departments. Our objective is to tackle community issues across the UK, often with other organisations on the ground. Unless we communicate with these people, we will not meet our objectives,' said a spokesman.

The move comes after years of extensive criticism of the department's asylum and immigration policies.

Just this week ministers were slammed for deporting failed asylum seekers, including pregnant women, families with children and torture victims, back to Zimbabwe where human rights groups say they would be victims of president Mugabe's regime.

Amnesty International also criticised the IND this week, accusing the Government of locking up too many asylum seekers before their claims are processed.

The Home Office abandoned plans for large accommodation centres earlier this year after resistance from campaign groups.

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