Refugee Council calls for asylum debate to be based on facts - yah-boo politics obscure the real issues

24 Apr 2001

Refugee Council release

As the latest monthly asylum figures are released, the Refugee Council is calling for a more rational tone to debates around refugees and asylum. "Yah-boo politics are obscuring the real issues," said Chief Executive Nick Hardwick.

On the trends around the most recent asylum patterns he added, "These are complicated issues not easily boiled down to a snappy soundbite. We need to look behind the figures. While we welcome the higher number of asylum decisions made in recent months, such progress is only meaningful if it is based on a fair examination of each case. Instead, we are continuing to see a high percentage of refusals being made on spurious grounds where applications are not even looked at. Many asylum seekers who receive such rejection letters without consideration of their situation (see notes) come from countries with a high recognition rate. These include Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Iran."

"We entirely reject any politician making political capital out of slight monthly variations in asylum applications. This is a red herring. While human rights abuses across the world continue, people will need the protection of the UK. Creating more misery by forcing asylum seekers to try and survive on vouchers worth 36.54 a week has not acted as a deterrent to people fleeing persecution. For those who agree that we should help people fleeing unimaginably horrific human rights violation, the question is, how are such people supposed to enter the country and find sanctuary with the walls around Fortress Europe getting ever higher?" added Mr Hardwick.

The average length of time it takes the Home Office to make an initial asylum decision remains at 14 months. "We urgently need a credible asylum system where fair decisions are made more quickly. Placing someone in limbo for over a year is not putting taxpayers' money to its most effective use," urged Nick Hardwick.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. Since 1999, there has been a steady increase in 'non-compliance' decisions, technical jargon for rejections without consideration because for example:
a meeting has been missed (most interviews are fixed hundreds of miles away);
the complicated 19-page form is incorrectly or not fully completed (in English);
the two week deadline to return the form is missed (or the Home Office have lost it).

2. Out of 7,478 asylum applicants substantively interviewed in Liverpool and Leeds during an eight week period (18 December - 9 February 2001) 86% (6,427) were from London and the Home Counties.

3. No one knows the number of cases reconsidered by the Home Office after an initial negative decision but before an appeal. For the year 2000, the Home Office itself estimates there were around 5,000 such cases.

4. Many refusals are overturned at appeal. In 2000, appeal adjudicators upheld 18 per cent of appeals before them (32 per cent in 1999). Although 46,190 asylum seekers challenged refusal decisions last year, asylum adjudicators (the first tier of the appeal system) only made 18,920 decisions. The remaining cases have been withdrawn, are awaiting a hearing, have yet to be passed on to the appeal authorities by the Home Office or have been reconsidered by the Home Office. Some decisions are also overturned at the next tier of the appeal system - at tribunal.