New reforms to be announced in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow fail to address the flaws in the asylum system and threaten to remove vital legal safeguards.
“Our major concern is that refugees who have fled torture and persecution would be penalised by this legislation”, said Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council.
This will be the fifth major change in asylum law in ten years.
Maeve Sherlock continued:
“Fundamentally, the public want a system that helps refugees in fear of their lives and deals effectively with those who have been fairly rejected. This has not been achieved despite repeated changes in the law.”
“The main cause of delays in the system is the poor quality of decision-making, which results in high numbers of asylum cases overturned at appeal. The most recent asylum statistics show a success rate for asylum appeals of over 20% and for some nationals this rises to around 35% (1).
“A robust appeals process is essential to combat this low standard of Home Office initial decisions, yet the Government proposes to limit the appeals process”.
“The Government should put its energies into improving asylum decisions in order to make the system fair for all.
“For the many asylum seekers who are given a wrong initial decision, the appeals process and good legal representation may be all that stops a refugee being sent home to face oppression.
“We are dismayed that the Government wishes to remove the legal checks and balances, which are an essential aspect of the system”.
Notes to editors
1. The latest figures for 2003 show an appeal success rate of 35% for Somali nationals (who constituted the highest number of applicants), as well as a rate of 30% for Zimbabwean nationals and 32% for Turkish nationals. Nationals of the Middle East also had a success rate of 29%, well above the average.