Leading article

Border Force jobs fiasco raises further questions

It has not been a good week for the British Home Office.

Rightly pilloried for the Windrush scandal which saw migrants who have lived and worked in Britain for decades treated appallingly, Theresa May was forced to issue an apology for a shambles of monumental proportions.

On a rather different scale but also providing an example of a government department that is not functioning in the efficient, competent and organised way people are entitled to expect, has been the fiasco over Border Force jobs.

More than 1,000 positions are on offer as part of a recruitment drive across the UK, including 21 jobs based in Belfast.

However, as the Irish News revealed on Monday, applicants were told that only British passport holders were eligible to apply.

This effectively excluded anyone possessing an Irish passport even though the Good Friday Agreement enshrines the right of people in Northern Ireland to hold dual citizenship.

The Home Office policy was widely criticised by politicians on both sides of the border while the Equality Commission warned the criteria could raise concerns over possible discrimination.

Apparently, these jobs are regarded as reserved positions which means only UK nationals may be employed, even though anyone applying to join the PSNI does not face a similar passport requirement.

In the face of growing pressure, the Home Office has apologised saying this criteria was an 'error' and application packs should have asked people to provide any valid passport.

The jobs will now be withdrawn and re-advertised with the updated criteria.

There is no doubt this amounts to an embarrassing climbdown by the government and we can only speculate as to what may have happened if this matter had not been highlighted by The Irish News.

Questions will also be raised about an earlier recruitment process and the exclusion of Irish passport holders from the jobs advertised at that stage.

This U-turn is a welcome development but the Home Office needs to provide a detailed explanation about what has proved to be a Border Force debacle.

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Leading article