Inefficiency, poor customer service and a lack of security and data checks were identified as key failings in the way the UK Border Agency’s dealt with the legacy of unresolved asylum cases. The findings were published in the Independent Chief Inspector’s report on the handling of legacy asylum and migration cases. The Chief Inspector also raised concerns that his findings did not correlate with the information that was provided by the Agency to Parliament.
In 2006 the then Home Secretary made a commitment that the UK Border Agency must “deal with” the legacy of unresolved asylum cases no later than the summer of 2011. The Case Resolution Directorate (CRD) was subsequently created in 2007 to ‘conclude’ these cases. The Agency stated that it had achieved this aim at the end of March 2011. However, 147,000 cases remained unresolved, some, where barriers to conclusion existed, as well as archived cases where applicants could not be traced. As a result, the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) was created in April 2011 to specifically deal with these outstanding cases. The inspection examined how well the transition of work from CRD to CAAU was managed. It also examined the efficiency and effectiveness of the handling of legacy asylum and migration cases in general.
John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:
“The clearance of legacy asylum casework has remained a prominent area of interest for a wide range of stakeholders since 2006, and one which often deals with sensitive and vulnerable individuals. My inspection examined how well this legacy work was managed by the Agency.
I found that updates given by the Agency to Parliament in the summer of 2011, stating that the legacy of unresolved asylum cases was resolved, were inaccurate. In fact, the programme of legacy work is far from resolved. On the evidence I found, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that cases were placed in the archive after only very minimal work in order to fulfil the pledge to conclude this work by the summer of 2011.
I found that the security checks on controlled archive cases had not been undertaken routinely or consistently since April 2011, and data matching with other departments in order to trace applicants had not begun until April this year. This was unacceptable and at odds with the assurances given to the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The flawed implementation of a policy change in July 2011, coupled with poor customer service, adversely affected a number of applicants. It led to lengthy and distressing delays for affected asylum applicants, including former unaccompanied asylum seeking children, whose cases should have been dealt with in a timely fashion.
Such was the inefficiency of this operation that at one point over 150 boxes of post, including correspondence from applicants, MPs and their legal representatives lay unopened in a room in Liverpool.
I have commented previously about the importance of effective governance during major business change initiatives, so I was disappointed to find that a lack of governance was again a contributory factor in what turned out to be an extremely disjointed and inadequately planned transfer of work between the CRD and the CAAU.”
The Chief Inspector made ten recommendations to the UK Border Agency. These included conducting routine and regular data matching exercises on cases yet to be concluded, ensuring information presented to the Home Affairs Select Committee is accurate, and embedding a stronger quality assurance framework within the CAAU.
The Chief Inspector, added:
“I noted that the Agency had started to tackle the problems at the time of my inspection. A business plan for CAAU had been created, a stronger performance framework had been put in place, governance of CAAU had improved and significant numbers of additional staff were being recruited. I also found a much more robust approach had been introduced to locate and trace applicants within the controlled archives.
The Agency must now make a new commitment to the resolution of legacy cases and stick to it. At the same time information about progress presented to Parliament and other stakeholders must be absolutely accurate in order that the performance of the Agency in this high profile area of work can be evaluated effectively.”
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