Fit for purpose yet? - Refugee Council
March 31, 2008

Fit for purpose yet?

By Jane – Campaigns and Public Affairs Team

Poliblog regular readers will know that here at the Refugee Council we are worried about many aspects of the asylum system – children in detention, limited access to legal aid, the destitution facing failed asylum seekers at the end of the process – to name just a few.  This week an independent inquiry into the asylum system echoed our concerns, saying that the system is not ‘fit for purpose’ and that it ‘falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society’.

The Independent Asylum Commission have spent the last 18 months conducting a warts-and-all review of the asylum system at all stages and from all viewpoints.  Asylum seekers, Government Ministers, policy makers, judges, think tanks, charities and ordinary people have all given their views and experiences of the system, and now we can see the results in the Commission’s interim findings report here.

It’s a fascinating report, brought alive by accounts and case studies that give a human face to the suffering that is hidden in the opaque and complex asylum system.  It says that the system still denies sanctuary to some people who genuinely need it, that detention is over-used and oppressive and that the adversarial nature of the asylum process stacks the odds against asylum seekers, especially those who are emotionally vulnerable and lack the power of communication.

I am pleased to see that the report also criticises the ‘culture of disbelief’ that persists amongst decision makers and that leads to perverse and unjust decisions.  The report gives an example of a Somali woman whose claim was rejected because her skin looked too dark for the ethnic group of which she claimed to be a member.  How can that be a basis for what is a life-or-death decision for someone?

Cleverly, the Commission have not published recommendations yet.  This report details the problems with the asylum system, and the commissioners will now collect responses from the government and others (including us!) to it to ensure that their recommendations, when they are published in the summer, offer practical and workable solutions.  I’m certainly looking forward to reading them – for me it’s another reason to look forward to the summer!