Targets for processing asylum claims as set out in the new asylum system are “unachievable” resulting in a huge backlog of cases, according to a report published by the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency on Friday (26 Feb).
John Vine’s report, Asylum: Getting the Balance Right?, found 30,000 asylum cases that had not been processed within the six month timeframe set for them. The report also found that the agency will struggle to process the 450,000 legacy cases before the set deadline of July 2011, leaving many asylum seekers who have been waiting years for their claims to be processed still with little or no government support.
In addition, the findings showed caseworkers given the responsibility of seeing cases through from beginning to end often had no clear guidance on areas of this work, and that during their training, caseworkers never have the chance to meet refugees who have experienced the asylum system to learn about the human impact of the process.
The Chief Inspector has set out a number of recommendations to tackle these failures, such as the introduction of clear targets to resolve any outstanding cases, including legacy cases.
Steve Symonds from ILPA criticised the report for its focus on targets, and stated that there was “little attempt to drill down to the substance of decision-making and the asylum process.” He says: “Milestones for [the New Asylum Model] case resolution have as ever distorted grossly the consideration of cases, and have led to a huge effort being directed at meeting milestones regardless of what happens afterwards.”
In response to the report, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“This report is an important and timely examination of the way asylum cases are conducted and decided.
“It is in everyone’s interests that asylum cases are concluded quickly and fairly. However, it is one thing to have targets, it is another to make them so unrealistic so that not only are they not met, but crucially, they result in the wrong decision being made and a lengthy appeals process.
“The asylum statistics for 2009 released yesterday show that 28% of appeals were successful – that shows a significant proportion of initial decisions are still wrong.
“As the Chief Inspector notes, this is about people’s lives, and it is worrying that at no point in their training do case workers meet refugees who have gone through the system themselves.
“A more human system, with good legal advice from the beginning and more support for asylum seekers to tell their stories, will be more effective and lead to better decisions, which is the most important target of all.”