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Saturday, 13 March 2010

£11million wasted by ‘flawed’ UK asylum decision making

Source: Refugee and Migrant Justice

Refugee and Migrant Justice has criticised the Home Office for wasting an estimated £11million last year by making flawed decisions that had to be overturned on appeal.

The latest immigration figures, released by the Home Office in its quarterly statistical summary today, revealed 73 per cent of initial asylum claims were turned down by the Home Office in 2009. In the same year there were 14,595 asylum appeals lodged, 4,150 (28 per cent) of which were accepted at an independent tribunal.

A number of countries, such as Zimbabwe, Somalia and Eritrea, are well documented for human rights abuse and have extremely high rates of success at appeal tribunals, suggesting these cases were not being dealt with properly at the first stage.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice said: 

“These statistics reveal a deterioration in the quality of decision making by the Home Office, which has been poor for some time. As a result, time and money is being wasted and the Government is struggling to meet its targets for resolving cases within six months.

“If our criminal justice system were exposed as having such poor decision making processes, there would be public uproar.

“The number of asylum applications winning on appeal has gone from one in four cases in 2008, to almost one in three. In some cases the figures are even more extreme – one in two appeals from Somalian-born applicants, and more than one in three for people from Zimbabwe.

“The Home Office’s Early Legal Advice Pilot in Solihull more time at the outset of applications resulted in the Home Office getting more decisions right first time, saving money and resolving more cases within six months.

“We welcome the Home Office’s commitment to roll out the pilot to another UK Border Agency region later this year. However, it must act faster to solve the problem of poor quality decision-making and stop millions of pounds being wasted.

Background information

Refugee and Migrant Justice, formerly the Refugee Legal Centre, is the largest specialist national provider of legal representation to asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. RMJ was awarded the Liberty/Justice Human Rights Award in 2005, in particular for its litigation work with Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

In 2007/2008 the Home Office ran a The Early Legal Advice Pilot, a pilot decision-making process in Solihull, to test the impact of giving asylum seekers early access to quality legal advice. Success rates at the initial stage in this pilot were considerably higher than the national average, and an independent evaluation concluded that it demonstrated potential for significant cost savings by reducing the number of cases that had to go to appeal. 

The average cost of an asylum appeal is £2,730.57. This breaks down to £1,477 for judicial salaries and fees, accommodation and IT costs; and £1,253.57 for support and accommodation. The real cost is likely to be much higher, as legal fees have not been included. These figures come from the Home Office report Evaluation of the Solihull Pilot, page 66 (PDF). 

In 2009 there were 24,550 asylum applications made in the UK in 2009 – 73 per cent of these were refused at the initial stage.

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