An inspection of the UK Border Agency visa section in Accra found staff were making good quality decisions and making proper use of the Immigration Rules. However, more could be done to analyse appeal outcomes to further improve decision making.
The Chief Inspector chose to inspect the Accra visa section because its refusal rate for the ‘Other Visitors’ category was one of the highest globally, and as a hub, it received applications from a number of countries in West Africa.
The Chief Inspector was pleased to find:
· the overall quality of decision making was high, with the proper use of Immigration Rules
· good retention of documents and protection of personal data
· no evidence of discrimination or not treating customers with respect
· a commitment to improving customer service through local initiatives, such as mystery shopper exercises and customer surveys
However, the Chief Inspector found room for improvement in some areas, notably:
· there was no evidence that appeal outcomes were being analysed to further improve decision-making quality;
· although performance at the time of the inspection was improving there had been significant delays in processing applications, especially for applicants in Cameroon;
· the potential under-recording of complaints, and inability of dissatisfied applicants to make a complaint either in person or by telephone.
The Chief Inspector made FOUR recommendation for improvement. These included ensuring all complaints recieved are treated correctly and recorded accurately, and analysing appeal outcomes in order to identify best practice and opportunities for improvement.
John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:
“I found the quality of decision-making was good overall, with proper use of the Immigration Rules. I also found good retention of documents on case files, in line with recommendations I have made previously, and sound procedures for the protection of personal data.
I was pleased to find nothing which suggested that people were suffering discrimination or not being treated with respect, and that staff in Accra took seriously their obligations to safeguard children. Although performance at the time of my inspection was improving I noted that, as recently as August, there had been significant delays in processing applications.
I observed the operation of the hub and spoke system in West Africa and noted the logistical difficulties faced by the Agency. These pose a challenge, which the Agency needs to overcome if it is to provide applicants in spoke countries with the levels of customer service enjoyed by applicants in Accra.”
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