Rolling three-year Inspection Plan

In May 2016, I published my first three-year inspection plan.  My aim in looking ahead over three years rather than just one was to provide a better sense of the overall shape and range of the Inspectorate’s work programme, of how planned inspections fitted together thematically, and of when particular topics that were not in scope within the next 12 months would be examined.

An updated three-year inspection plan is now published.  It includes a new Year 3 (2019/2020), which takes me up to the end of my term as Independent Chief Inspector.  The plan for 2017/18 has been revised to include the topics I had intended to inspect in 2016/17 but was unable to resource, where these remain of interest.  The new 2017/18 plan otherwise includes as much of what was originally planned and is still valid as I believe is now achievable.

As part of the planning process, between January and March 2017, I met with ministers, officials and stakeholders in order to understand their issues and priorities.  I have tried to accommodate these where I can.  However, the plan is not a collaboration or consensus, but represents my own assessment of where I believe inspection is both necessary and will add value.

I have had to make certain assumptions, the key ones being that the Inspectorate is fully-staffed throughout the period at the current headcount (30 full-time equivalents).  I have also assumed that with a full staff complement, and through further process efficiencies, the Inspectorate will be able to cover more ground in 2017/18 than has been possible in 2016/17.

Flexibility remains important, not least because of the extent and pace of change in this area.  The UK Borders Act 2007permits me to deviate from any published plan where necessary, but clearly this needs to be carefully managed to avoid unbalancing the overall programme.  I will keep the three-year plan under review, but will make adjustments only where I have to.  Where I make any in-year additions to the planned inspections, I will announce them on the website.

 

Border Force urged to boost response to slavery

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner recently completed an inspection of UK Border Force’s identification and treatment of potential victims of modern slavery. Findings are detailed in a report to be laid before Parliament today.

The inspection examined the efficiency and effectiveness of Border Force’s work in this area and revealed that identification of victims and perpetrators requires urgent improvement. In response to the report the Home Office states that tackling modern slavery remains a priority for the government and accepts 9 of the 12 recommendations given in the report, partially accepting the remaining 3.

The UK estimates there are up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK. The most recent official statistics show that there were 3266 potential victims in 2015, 94% of whom come from outside the UK. And yet, Border Force had set their own target of identifying just 313 potential victims in 2015-2016 – a number the report describes as ‘modest’.

“There is a strong chance we are missing thousands of victims of modern slavery at our borders” says the Anti-Slavery Commissioner. “I am pleased that nearly all recommendations in this report have been accepted, but I am concerned that we are missing the mark in safeguarding victims.”

“We must urgently improve our response, regardless of how challenging it is. If Border Force identified 265 potential victims at the border between April and November last year, as outlined in the report, and yet only 57 entered government funded support, what happened to the remaining 208?”

The government identifies Border Force as the lead for targeting and disrupting traffickers, and for identifying victims at the border. However the report highlights challenges faced by Border Force in meeting these expectations.

“There is no denying that the role of Border Force is a challenging one” says the Commissioner. “None the less, officers at the border are in a unique position to identify both victims and traffickers often before exploitation has even taken place, and this must be utilised.”

The inspection found that the number of identified potential victims and traffickers was low. Border Force identified just one suspected trafficker in 2014-2015 and one in 2015-2016.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, says, “The Home Office has accepted the majority of my recommendations, and has committed to making a number of improvements over the next few months.  I look forward to re-inspecting Border Force’s work in this area during 2017 and to confirming that improvements have been made and are effective.

“During 2017/18, I also intend to inspect how the other Home Office borders and immigration directorates are dealing with potential victims of modern slavery, working again with the Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Where relevant, I expect to see that the lessons and recommendations from this inspection have been implemented in those directorates.”

The Commissioner reiterates that the role of Border Force is crucial in the fight against the crime of modern slavery but goes on to say, “Border Force are being let down by their own lack of data recording and inconsistent training of staff. Thus far, officers have had outdated, brief or no training at all on modern slavery and human trafficking.”

“We must work together to transform this. I am glad to see that my recommendations for reviewed training have been accepted. Now I want to see a move from pockets of good practice to excellence across the board.”

ICIBI invites tenders for a literature review – Deadline 10 February 2017

The Commission

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration invites tenders for a literature review of how the Home Office ensures it acts in the best interests of the child when conducting its immigration, asylum and nationality functions, specifically how it determines, reviews and secures the child’s best interests.

The review should cover published research, and rulings from relevant legal cases from the period January 2013 to December 2016.

Background

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the efficiency and effectiveness of the performance of functions relating to immigration, asylum, nationality and customs by the Home Secretary and by officials and others exercising those functions on her behalf.  The ICIBI’s responsibilities are set out in statute (s.48-56 of the UK Border Act 2007).

The ICIBI does not investigate individual cases, but may consider or draw conclusions about an individual case for the purpose of, or in the context of, considering a general issue.

The ICIBI’s purpose is to help improve the efficiency, effectiveness and consistency of the Home Office’s border and immigration functions through unfettered, impartial and evidence-based inspection. The ICIBI sends his completed inspection reports to the Home Secretary for her to lay in Parliament, at which point they are published on the ICIBI’s website along with the Home Secretary’s formal response to the report and its recommendations.

Inspection of the treatment of children

The ICIBI’s priorities are detailed in a rolling three-year inspection plan, which takes account of identified or perceived areas of risk and of the views and priorities of the Home Office and of a broad range of stakeholders.

The 2016/17 – 2018/19 Plan has five themes, one of which is ‘Providing a service (processing applicants, claimants and customers)’. Under this theme, one of the areas for inspection is ‘Identification and treatment of vulnerable individuals’, which includes children.

The Plan notes that the ICIBI will carry out an inspection of the ‘treatment of children across the border and immigration systems (including the exercise of S. 55 safeguarding duties)’. The proposed literature review will form a key part of the scoping and initial research for the planned inspection.

The literature review

The literature review should:

  • identify sources and provide references
  • highlight any recent studies and summarise their conclusions
  • highlight any gaps in knowledge or areas requiring further research

It should include a short introduction with an outline of the review, including the main topics covered, the order of the arguments, and a brief rationale for this. It should be written in a formal, academic style – clear and concise, avoiding colloquialisms and emotive language, factual and respectful of others’ opinions.

While the reviewer should use their experience and judgment regarding what to include, the review should aim to answer the following questions:

  • what evidence is there that children’s rights under UK and EU law, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are understood and respected by the Home Office?
  • what evidence, if any, is there that the rights of children have been disregarded by the Home Office?
  • what evidence is there of a child-sensitive approach to the processing of asylum claims, including from unaccompanied minors?
  • what does the evidence show about the Home Office’s approach to family unification?

Timescale

The completed literature review needs to reach the ICIBI by 31 March 2017.  Electronic submission is acceptable.

The reviewer will be invited to present and discuss their review with the ICIBI in early April 2017.

Fee

The fee for this work is fixed at £3,000.

Handling

The literature review should be submitted to the ICIBI in confidence. The decision to publish all or parts of the review, or to reference the review or quote from it in future inspection reports, will rest solely with the Independent Chief Inspector.

Skills Required

Applicants should have a post-graduate degree in a relevant social science (politics, law, development studies, anthropology, etc.) and be familiar with children’s rights and asylum/immigration procedures in the UK.

How to apply

Researchers interested in undertaking this literature review should submit a one-page letter setting out their qualifications and relevant expertise, together with a sample of their work (not more than 30 pages), to chiefinspector@icinspector.gsi.gov.uk by the 10th February 2017.

The successful applicant will be invited to discuss the commission with the ICIBI before they begin work.

The Chief inspector has published an inspection report on the provisions for tackling sham marriage.

With effect from 2 March 2015, the Immigration Act 2014 extended the period of notice for couples intending to marry in order to give the Home Office time to investigate the genuineness of the relationship of those it suspected may be sham.

Couples who fail to comply with a Home Office investigation are not permitted to marry. Compliant couples who are assessed as sham may marry, but the Home Office will seek to refuse any future application to remain in the UK based on that marriage.

The inspection found that the initial implementation of the new provisions was problematic, indicating a lack of proper planning:

  • the Home Office did not communicate effectively with registrars about its new way of operating, where it no longer attended register offices and prevented ceremonies from proceeding
  • new processes were cumbersome and weakened by their reliance on fragmented IT and by the limited operational support received from local enforcement teams, with the result that cases were not being determined within the extended time limit.

From January 2016, the Home Office piloted a revised process aimed at overcoming these problems, which it rolled out nationally from June. This late change meant that the inspection was unable to test fully the efficiency and effectiveness of the new provisions and the ICIBI will re-inspect this area when more evidence of how they are working is available.

This is the third of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ provisions that the ICIBI has inspected in 2016. As with the provisions in relation to UK driving licences and bank and building society current accounts, the ICIBI found that the Home Office was not doing enough to measure either its own performance or the impact of the sham marriage provisions on voluntary returns, enforced removals and on the ‘pull factor’ for individuals considering settling illegally in the UK. Without this, any meaningful evaluation of the ‘hostile environment’ strategy will prove extremely difficult.

Mr Bolt made five recommendations for improvement to the Home Office.

The implementation of the 2014 ‘hostile environment’ provisions for tackling sham marriage, August to September 2016

For further press information, please contact Claudia Cimino at 020 3513 0448

Chief Inspector publishes inspection report on the Home Office’s ‘Hostile Environment’ initiatives

The Home Secretary has laid a report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on two of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ measures in Parliament.

An inspection of the ‘hostile environment’ measures relating to driving licences and bank accounts January to July 2016

The report examines the steps taken as a result of the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 to deny public and private services and benefits to individuals who have no legal right to be in the UK, focusing on UK driving licences and bank and building society current accounts since these measures built on pre-existing arrangements and are therefore most mature.

The driving licence and bank and building society measures, like the other ‘hostile environment’ measures, rely on partnership working between the Home Office and in this case the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Cifas respectively.  The inspection found that these partnerships worked well. However, the Home Office needed to ensure that sufficient attention and effort is put into improving the arrangements for data sharing, for assuring data quality, and for processing matches to avoid wrong decisions because of errors over an individual’s immigration status.  The inspection found that the Home Office failed to appreciate the potential impact of such wrong decisions on those affected, and relied too heavily on avenues of redress.

The Independent Chief Inspector also found that the Home Office needed to give greater thought to the evaluation of its ‘hostile environment’ measures, both the individual measures and the overall ‘package’, not least to justify the cost and effort required of the Home Office and from others to deliver them.