Thursday, December 20, 2012

Report criticises the UKBA’s handling of asylum legacy cases

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The UKBA have been heavily criticised for the way they have been dealing with the backlog of asylum cases. By not addressing asylum legacy cases effectively, UKBA force asylum seekers to live in uncertainty and poverty.

It is no secret that there is a huge backlog in asylum legacy cases (asylum cases submitted before March 2007) and a recent report by the Independent Chief Inspection of Borders and Immigration has identified a huge number of problems and failings. On average, asylum seekers in this situation have been left awaiting a decision for 7 years, and this is often despite making efforts to contact UKBA. This problem is emphasised by the fact that, at one point, there were over 100,000 unopened pieces of post in relation to legacy cases. As a result of such startling inefficiency, it isn’t surprising that everyone from MPs and immigration lawyers to asylum seekers themselves has complained that they have not received responses to letters sent to UKBA, or, when they have done, they have received them weeks or months later.

On top of this problem, the report highlighted a number of other issues. A particular concern, and one where it has been suggested that UKBA has misled Parliament, is the way in which UKBA has been handling of cases that have been put into the ‘controlled archive’. Cases are put in the controlled archive and stated as being concluded after efforts have been made to locate applicants and deal with claims. It has been found that sufficient efforts are not being made to successfully locate, contact and deal with claims and the fact that the number of cases in the controlled archive rose from 9,000 in July 2010 to 98,000 in September 2011 demonstrates this.

There has also been a general shift away from granting Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in legacy cases. Instead, those who are granted asylum are often given Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) for 3 years. This means that after 3 years, those with DLR have to reapply to remain in the country and there is no guarantee that this reapplication will be successful.

More generally, the report also highlights a number of general quality assurance and customer service failings. There appear to be a number of factors that have caused this, particularly the lack of UKBA resources, but the result is that some of the decision-making in asylum claims appears poor and inconsistent.

Here at STAR we regularly encounter the problems faced by asylum seekers as a result of UKBA decisions. Asylum seekers awaiting a decision and those granted DLR do not have Equal Access to higher education, something STAR is campaigning to change. STAR members also work with vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees across the country and have seen for themselves the damage that is done by the long wait for a decision to be reached.

It is vital to acknowledge the impact that UKBA procedural failings have on asylum seekers themselves. Many asylum seekers with legacy cases have had their initial asylum application rejected, often incorrectly and without a full consideration of the facts, and have ended up in limbo awaiting the decision of an appeal. For all those affected by the backlog of legacy cases, day to day life can be one of poverty and uncertainty. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and have real difficulty in accessing government support, which when it is given is in the form of no-choice accommodation or a small amount of financial help. Many receive little or no government assistance and are simply left destitute, often homeless and incredibly vulnerable. Once in this situation, it becomes even more difficult to chase UKBA for a decision on their case, meaning asylum seekers are unable to move on with their lives here, but also unable to return to their countries of origin.

It is clear that the delay in process is often the fault of UKBA, particularly given the evidence of the recent report, and that this is adversely and critically affecting the lives of many vulnerable asylum seekers. The system has to improve, and the system has to improve soon.

Click here to read the full report

Posted by STAR team on 20/12/2012 at 03:51 PM