Independent Chief Inspector Publishes Report following Unannounced Inspection of Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit

The Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), John Vine CBE QPM, has today published the report into his first ever unannounced inspection of UKBA operations.

The inspection report is also the first to be published on the UKBA’s domestic operations since the Independent Chief Inspector was appointed to his role by the Home Secretary.

The inspection of the Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) was carried out on 10th August and was the first in a programme of unannounced inspections planned for 2009/10.

The Liverpool ASU is one of two nationwide (the other being Croydon) run by the UKBA, in which a person is registered as an asylum applicant and begins the process of applying for asylum in the UK. The screening process involves establishing an individual’s name, age and nationality, and considers how an asylum applicant reached the UK.

On the day of the inspection the Chief Inspector’s team arrived at the ASU without giving any prior warning to the UKBA, other than a general reminder that an unannounced visit was likely in the near future at an unspecified location. Whilst on site the team observed a number of ASU processes in action, including, biometrics, screening interviews and a detention. They also carried out interviews with managers and staff, as well as, a significant number of randomly selected customers.

The resulting report highlighted specific areas of good practice and noted that staff demonstrated a professional, courteous and caring approach to customers, irrespective of their status. The inspection team also noted that ASU staff were trained on how to deal with children and young people, demonstrating particular skill in handling a customer who presented as vulnerable and distressed.

An innovative pre-screening initiative, providing customers with an audio presentation of useful information regarding the screening process while they wait, was singled out for praise by the Chief Inspector.

However, the Chief Inspector found that more work should be done to improve the ASU for staff and customers. The report’s recommendations addressed the immediate need for improvements to accommodation and facilities, as well as, for reducing queuing and waiting times, and improving the provision of information to customers about what to expect prior to them arriving for their ASU appointment.

John Vine said:

“I am very pleased to publish the report on my first ever unannounced inspection of UKBA operations. Unannounced inspections of frontline services are essential to ensure the UKBA is delivering fair, consistent and respectful services.

“On the whole I concluded that staff in the Liverpool ASU were professional and committed to their work, but were hampered in the level of service they could provide to customers by inadequate accommodation and working conditions. I was also disappointed to find that, although an appointments system had been introduced in the ASU, customers were still required to wait for significant periods of time, sometimes with young families.

“It is my intention to carry out further unannounced inspections of UKBA operations as the year unfolds.”

Download the full report as a PDF here:

Alternatively, the full inspection report on the Liverpool ASU can be viewed alongside other Inspection Reports.

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