Scathing Committee report on UKBA's work - Refugee Council
March 25, 2013

Scathing Committee report on UKBA’s work

If the UKBA was an asylum applicant it might fail its own credibility test, by Judith Dennis, Advocacy team

The UK Border Agency examines the asylum applications of those who have fled their countries and are asking the UK government to provide the protection their own country could or would not give them. Some of those fleeing persecution are able to show objective evidence of their treatment although often soemone’s own narrative will be matched against other available information about a situation or country to decide whether or not the person needs to be protected i.e. granted asylum.

In order to make this judgement, decision makers at the UK Border Agency (UKBA) apply a ‘credibility test’ as part of their investigations. This is a complicated process involving many factors and is only one element of the asylum determination process.

Within instructions to its staff on how to assess credibility the following sentence refers to inconsistencies in an account given by a person seeking asylum.

“An applicant’s ability to remain consistent throughout both written and oral accounts of past and current events may lead the decision maker not to believe the claim.”

Consider then, what an asylum decision maker might make of the history of the UKBA’s presence in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC). Today the HASC published its latest report on the work of the UKBA. Every three months senior officials at the Agency have been called to give evidence about the UKBA’s progress against a number of key areas, including the notorious backlog of cases that were to be ‘concluded’ within five years of July 2006, when this aim was announced by the then Home Secretary John Reid. 

The rest, as is often said, is history – we are now fully appraised of the extent of the failure to adhere to this timescale, not least because of the report in November 2012 by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, which identified a number of reasons why the handling of the legacy backlog was so disastrous. The lack of attention by senior officials to the backlog clearance exercise and ensuing reduction in resources was amongst them.

One key issue throughout the history of the non-clearance of the backlog was the way progress was reported to parliament via the Home Affairs Committee. Members attempted to scrutinise the work in detail, asking for a raft of information to help them to understand the state of play. It soon began to remind the officials of statements made previously and of the need to be transparent and honest in its representation of numbers, changes in terminology and practice. 

In its latest report the HASC has focused on the statements made by senior officials at the UKBA and attempts to outline why it has been so critical of the Agency’s history in this area. It maps out, sometimes in the form of a diagram, the inconsistent statements made on a range of issues, including clearance of the backlog and it’s probably fair to say the Committee remains unimpressed.

You can read the full report here.