Last week, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published its latest report on Home Office policy and practices in asylum decision making.

The report is deeply concerning. The Chief Inspector sets out “end to end” problems in asylum decision making processes. These problems mean that far too many people are left living in limbo, waiting months or years for even an initial decision on their claim.

The report revealed that

  • The number of those awaiting a decision has increased year-on-year since 2010, reaching an all-time high of 52,935t as of 31 March 2021
  • The length of time that asylum claimants have to wait has also risen, with the average number of days increasing from 233 in 2017, to 351 in 2019, and 449 in 2020
  • In some cases, Home Office decision makers felt they did not have appropriate skills to assess claims

Graham O’Neill, Policy Manager, Scottish Refugee Council said: “This damning report raises extremely serious questions for the Home Office. For people seeking protection, the outcome of an asylum claim can quite literally be the difference between life and death. It is absolutely imperative that these decisions are of the highest quality and made by trained experts.

“Both the people who risked all for safety here and the workers making the asylum decision need to be supported by a system that values them. This report shows us that this is, far too often and persistently, not the case. The Home Office and the UK Government need to start valuing not denigrating or seeking to end the right to asylum, as they are with their two-tier refugee proposals in the Nationality and Borders Bill (the anti-refugee bill).

The report found that the most “commonly identified” problems with asylum refusal letters are; how to “establish the material facts of the claim and differentiate them from insignificant details”, how to “appropriately assess the credibility of the claim” and how to “apply the correct standard of proof”; and finally about difficulties on “assessing documentary evidence provided in support of the claim”.

“These are serious and fundamental weaknesses. If decision makers do not feel able to do these things then it calls into question whether the Home Office can  be entrusted with this responsibility for asylum protection. These are the basic of asylum decisions.

“We urgently need to ensure that every person going through the UK’s asylum system is able to access a swift, fair and expert decision on their claim so that more people are able to move on with their lives in safety. This report needs to be read and its recommendations applied.”

Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson