Operating Mandates

Regarding Hostile Environment immigration control agencies (UKVI and Border Force), we provide below some helpful research material, while the following Guardian article reveals their culture of secrecy background context: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/27/amber-rudd-was-told-about-migrant-removal-targets-leak-reveals — the news piece indicates the key first level decision makers, so it must be concluded, on more than a balance of probabilities, that these to be the creators and updaters of the operating mandates. 

Operating Mandates would be the most logical of types of strategy implementing documents to direct on unstated [not in the public domain] target population groups to be made unwelcome in the UK, or discouraged from seeking entry to the UK. 

This would explain the extreme diffidence of civil servants in the Home Office to disclose these documents in full or even redacted form.  Doubtless though there are other types of documents beyond the operating mandates*, that clearly former ministers such as the former Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who lost her job as a consequence of her civil servants actions in this area, may not know of, or be able to access.

*For example, the full ECO course given by the UK Border Agency International Group training team (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-a-decision-on-an-application-ecb10/ecb10-making-a-decision-on-an-application ): there is no information online about this course, which is unusual to say the least.  

Research material with observations on Home Office actions:

FOI requests process context information concerning the two examples below (FOI requests are processed by government / civil servants, not a non-government entity, meaning if controversial refusals to provide information occur, there is no further entity to appeal to, making the FOI processing entity less than effective where serious abuses of power or bullying are concerned.   https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398677/Home_Office_Mrs_A_Review_-_Final.pdf       115.As with Border Force, once an allegation is received it is checked against the relevant databases, which in the case of IE are the Central Reference System (CRS), the Warnings Index (WI) and the Case Information Database (CID).


Dear Home Office,
Please provide a list of archives consulted or offered the Windrush Landing Cards prior to their destruction by the department.

Kind regards,

Sean Brawley

Mr. Brawley,

Thank you for contacting the Home Office with your request.

This has been assigned to a caseworker (case ref 53478). We will aim to send you a full response by 28/05/2019 which is twenty working days from the date we received your request.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you,

P. Zebedee
FOI Requests
Home Office

—–Original Message—–

To: FOI Requests
Subject: 53478 – Freedom of Information request – Windrush Landing Cards

Dear Home Office,
Please provide a list of archives consulted or offered the Windrush Landing Cards prior to their destruction by the department.

Kind regards,

Sean Brawley

HO reply of 17th June:

Dear Mr Brawley,

Thank you for your email. Please could you provide your FOI reference number to enble me to forward your email to the correct business area for
a response.

Thank you,

N Mckenzie

Home Office

FOI Requests & Responses supportive screen captures:

 Strategy International and Immigration Group

2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

Switchboard 020 7035 4848

E-mail: Info.Access@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk

After careful consideration we have decided that the Border Force Operating Mandate is exempt from disclosure under section(31) (a) and (e) of the Freedom of Information Act. These provide that information can be withheld where disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime and the operation of immigration controls. ….

Some of the *exemptions in the FOI Act, referred to as ‘qualified exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test (PIT). This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the information, or the considerations for and against the requirement to say whether the information requested is held or not. We must carry out a PIT where we are considering using any of the qualified exemptions in response to a request for information.

The ‘public interest’ is not the same as what interests the public. In carrying out a PIT we consider the greater good or benefit to the community as a whole if the information is released or not. The ‘right to know’ must be balanced against the need to enable effective government and to serve the best interests of the public.

The FOI Act is ‘applicant blind’. This means that we cannot, and do not, ask about the motives of anyone who asks for information. In providing a response to one person, we are expressing a willingness to provide the same response to anyone, including those who might represent a threat to the UK.

Considerations in favour of disclosure

There has been recent public interest in the operation of border controls and the range of border security checks performed by Border Force Officers. It is considered that disclosure of this type of information would reassure the UK that we operate a secure border that provides an efficient service for people or goods.

We acknowledge that disclosure of information covered by this exemption could improve the understanding of the UK Border Controls and the transparency of these processes to enhance public trust in decisions made.

Considerations in favour of withholding

The Operating Mandate describes in detail the mandatory checks to be conducted by Border Force Officers on all passengers and those to be conducted on specific cohorts of passengers and goods. It also sets out the level of authorisation required for any suspension of checks and specifies the record-keeping standards to be maintained.

Whilst it is considered **that maintaining the confidence in the security and operation of the UK border is crucial to the public interest, the Home Office considers that disclosing the requested information would jeopardise the effectiveness of our border security arrangements. The ***release of this information would therefore be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime and the operation of immigration controls. In this case we believe that the public interest falls in favour of non-disclosure.

Date 23 August 2012


* Regarding the PIT, please see Transparency issues below on its defects

** & *** indicate in the first case recognition of an extremely important matter of open government and public confidence – as with Immigration Tribunal and Home Office/UKVI decision papers such truisms are stated, and having been stated summarily de-facto ignored in the rest of the section or document.  There are two very different elements [crime prevention/detection, and immigration controls] stated here, conveniently and it can reasonably be argued not accidentally mixed together.  This is a run of the mill tactic used to avoid providing information that clearly must be embarrassing to the Home Office on its Hostile Environment implementing directives to employees (the date coincides with the institution of the Hostile Environment.  If innocuous, any specific sections of the document could have been referred to as excluded and listed as whether crime prevention relevant – ‘immigration controls’ is a very imprecise term.

Transparency issues: No detail on the name, post, of the Home Office civil servant making this very revealing, important decision and explaining it in such terms, is provided by Whitehall/the Home Office, nor is information provided on the mechanism/procedure for making such highly important in the public interest decisions, nor what group of individuals or body/entity established that mechanism/procedure.  These are major democratic deficit, obscuring vital information, anti-transparency in government matters.


Link: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/border_force_operations_manual_o 

Note: in the screen capture above, not only was the information request refused by the Home Office, but was closed to new correspondence. 

Original FOI request:


Dear Home Office,

The now-defunct UKBA used to publish certain parts of the document (or collection of documents) known as the “Border Force Operations Manual” on its website. The list of previously publicly-available chapters can still be found at e.g. https://web.archive.org/web/200902031145… 

It was stated that this manual was being updated in 2011. It appears that the revised version may now be known as the “Border Force Operating Mandate”.

There have been at least two public FOI requests (18500 and 23663) for this manual in the past, and in both cases they were denied on grounds of public interest. However, given that the aforementioned selection of chapters have been released in the past, it can be reasonably presumed that the material contained therein was considered suitable for public consumption. I would like to therefore request that you make at least these chapters available again, especially given that any member of the public could have freely accessed and stored these chapters whilst it was previously available.

I would also like to request a table of contents of said manual, or in lieu of one, a list of section headings.

Yours faithfully,

HOME OFFICE RESPONSE (2 different final response letters with this) of 28/09/2015

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please find attached a letter regarding your FOI request.

Yours sincerely

FOI Team

NOTE: almost all the specific points made, were Not responded to and, significantly because the individual making the information request, understandably [for fear of retaliation/bullying] chose to use their initials, the request was turned down. 

THE FOLLOW UP REQUEST WAS IN FACT TURNED DOWN BECAUSE THE MEMBER OF PUBLIC MAKING THE REQUEST PROVIDED THEIR INTIALS (wisely, and doubtless out of fear of being reached in intimidating potential ‘black op’ style ways for raising such important questions) RATHER THAN THEIR FULL NAME.