Wednesday briefing: How a sacked official blew the whistle on new lows in the asylum system

28 February 2024: Guardian: Wednesday briefing: How a sacked official blew the whistle on new lows in the asylum system

In today’s newsletter: Why David Neal lost his job, and what he had to say about the faltering immigration system

Good morning. When then-home secretary Priti Patel appointed David Neal as the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration in 2021, the Commons home affairs committee refused to endorse the decision. They were worried that the recruitment process had been inadequate and said they had seen no evidence that he was “confident to challenge performance publicly”. Well, they’ve seen it now.

Last week, David Neal was sacked from his job by James Cleverly, now the home secretary, just a month before he was due to stand down. Neal’s crime was to disclose unauthorised information to the media – a tactic that he appears to have resorted to after 15 reports he wrote uncovering problems with the immigration system went unpublished, instead gathering dust on a Home Office shelf. Now Neal has told the same parliamentary committee of “shocking leadership” at the Home Office and said he was “sacked for doing my job” – and his testimony paints a grim picture of the state of the accommodation centres where the government houses asylum seekers.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke to Diane Taylor, who covers immigration and asylum for the Guardian, about what her own reporting has uncovered about the facilities that drove Neal to go rogue – and what his departure tells us about the Home Office’s appetite for scrutiny. Here are the headlines.

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