The UK Border Agency’s failure to resolve asylum cases within a reasonable period of time is causing damage to the lives of asylum seekers, according to a report published today by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
The report, Fast and Fair?, cites examples where the UKBA’s failure to process claims has caused extreme inconvenience and suffering for the individuals involved. The Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, who independently investigates complaints about government departments, received 478 complaints about the UKBA since last June.
In light of the findings, Abraham raised the concern that applicants, related organisations, and the public at large, are likely to lose confidence in the failing system, and that UKBA must do more to ensure existing backlogs are cleared, and to avoid them in future.
In response, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“This welcome report serves as a solemn reminder about how important it is that people’s cases are dealt with quickly and fairly. It is in nobody’s interests that those who are entitled to asylum in the UK are left waiting for years, unable to work and forced to rely on state support, or worse still, destitute.
“While there have been improvements in recent years and significant inroads have been made in processing asylum claims made before 2007, it is clear that much more needs to be done to ensure people’s cases are treated fairly.
“The Ombudsman rightly sends out a warning signal about the lack of preparation for when the first group of refugees’ five year limited leave ends this summer. We are concerned that there are not adequate plans in place to deal with reviewing each of these cases, and UKBA clearly have their hands full clearing the pre-existing backlog.
“Revisiting refugees’ cases would be a serious waste of resources and will cause unnecessary distress and uncertainty for those trying to get on with rebuilding their lives and contributing to the UK. We urge the government to revert back to allowing refugees – people who the government agrees have been persecuted in their home country and cannot return – leave to stay indefinitely from the day they win their case.”
Our response is quoted in the Guardian and Evening Standard. See these articles and further press coverage of the story here:
Guardian: Asylum failings damage lives, says immigration watchdog
Evening Standard: Border Agency under fire as hundreds of immigration errors highlighted
Telegraph: Border Agency cannot perform basic functions, warns watchdog.
Times: Border Agency long way from target of removals, says watchdog
Daily Mail: Shambolic and unfair: Watchdog’s damning verdict on immigration service after 13 years of Labour government