Amnesty International UK and the Still Human Still Here Coalition have released a report this week further highlighting critically flawed decisions made by UKBA border officials in charge of deciding asylum claims.
Statistics used in the A Question of Credibility report show the process, first highlighted by AI UK in their 2004 report Get It Right: How Home Office decision making fails refugees, is actually becoming more inaccurate with regard to first-instance decisions, with 25 percent of refusals now being overturned on appeal. Despite repeated calls for decision-making policy to be reformed, such as in the recent Refugee Council report Between as Rock and a Hard Place, perceived shortfalls in areas such as access to legal aid and flawed decision-making based on credibility issues have not been effectively addressed by the Home Office.
Research showed that in sample cases, the caseworkers often incorrectly applied caselaw, or did not follow the relevant credibility or operational guidance notes instituted as part of Home Secretary Theresa May’s recommendations. While some of the negative decisions could be chalked up to reasonable disagreements between the judges at different stages in the process, the majority of cases cited in the study were overturned primarily due to the fact the ‘UKBA case owner had wrongly made a negative assessment of the applicant’s credibility’.
Further, a significant number of reviewed cases also had their decisions reversed at appeal stage, on the alarming basis that the UKBA officer speculated what was likely to happen or how the applicant should have acted using solely their own judgment, often not referring to region-specific research that would have alerted them to the fallibility of these decisions. In other cases, the case officer did not ‘give appropriate weight’ to evidence, such as medical records and other documentation, which added credence to the applicant’s case.
While Amnesty admits that its research cannot be taken to correspond to all cases, the report is substantive, and in addition to a growing body of work that underlines the same conclusions supports a widening call to overhaul asylum claims’ procedure. The monetary cost of unnecessary appeals is substantial, but the cost to the individual fleeing persecution cannot be measured in pounds and pence.