Independent inspector calls for improvements in Home Office decision making

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04 Feb 2016

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has urged the Government to make changes in the way it handles asylum claims.

In a new report published today David Bolt reveals the results of an in depth four month inspection into the way the Home Office handles asylum casework.

This inspection examined the department’s asylum casework operations and the quality of decision-making. It also looked at the registration, screening and routing process; how substantive asylum interviews were conducted and whether decision-making was in accordance with Home Office guidance.

Inspectors noted that the Home Office’s own internal audits had flagged serious problems with the screening process. During the first three quarters of 2014/15, the Home Office’s internal quality assurance assessments revealed its records as ‘weak’ or ‘fail’.

Unfortunately scope of the report was limited to looking at whether or not Home Office officials were following current policy – ignoring the fact that some existing policies, such as the discredited country guidelines on Eritrea, are deeply flawed.

The report calls for improvements to be made in the the quality of interviewing and decision-making. In one case, inspectors discovered that a former Afghan interpreter for the British Army who had claimed asylum was initially wrongly refused because the official deciding his case was using out of date information about the risk faced by former interpreters in Afghanistan. The interpreter’s appeal was later successful in court.

The inspection also highlighted the poor quality of the screening process, the handling of cases of torture survivors, and the further leave application process for unaccompanied children.

The report is particularly critical of the way in which the cases of torture survivors are managed. Inspectors highlighted that the safeguards in place which are supposed to help protect asylum seekers who have been tortured were simply not working.
Inspectors confirmed that unaccompanied children applying for further leave to remain faced lengthy delays for decisions on their cases.

In inspectors’ sample of 29 cases still waiting for a decision, 10 had been outstanding for over a year. In two cases, although a decision had been made, nearly a year later the young person had still not been informed what the outcome of the decision was.

We know from our own work with unaccompanied children that delays in decision making results in an extremely anxious wait which can leave children frightened about their futures.

Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: "It’s extremely welcome that inspectors have investigated the way the Home Office deals with asylum claims.

"Considering decisions on asylum claims can be life or death, so it’s vital the Home Office follows its own procedures properly and gets them right.

"It is particularly worrying that the internal processes that should be helping the Home Office improve do not appear to have had the desired effect. Action must be taken to change this as a matter of urgency.”