The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s inspection of Asylum Casework; March – July 2015

Press Release

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

An Inspection of Asylum Casework March – July 2015

Since 2008, the inspectorate has conducted eight inspections into various aspects of the Home Office’s asylum work. This latest inspection examined the department’s asylum casework operations and the quality of decision-making. The inspection looked at the registration, screening and routing process; how substantive asylum interviews were conducted and whether material facts were captured and probed; and whether decision-making was in accordance with Home Office guidance.

The inspection was conducted between March and July of 2015, just ahead of the sharp increase in Asylum applications in the second half of 2015.

The inspection found that the Home Office had made significant improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of its management of asylum casework during 2014/15. It had met its aim of deciding all straightforward claims made on or after 1 April 2014 within six months, while successfully clearing all straightforward claims lodged before 1 April 2014 by 31 March 2015. The inspection also found that non-straightforward cases were being monitored effectively and decided quickly once barriers had been removed.

The inspection found that decision-makers, and other staff within Asylum Operations (AO), were professional, dedicated, and demonstrated a commitment to fairness. However, the quality of interviewing and decision-making needed to improve, along with the recording of the reasons for decisions.

As the report show (Figure13) between August 2014 and August 2015 there was a 50% rise in Asylum applications. Senior managers told us that they were aware that performance against service standards could be at risk from the rising intake and future budget pressures. They confirmed that contingency plans were in place to deal this.

The inspection identified a number of areas for improvement, including aspects of the screening process. It found that management of further leave applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children could be improved to reduce delays and to maintain contact with the claimant. However, the most serious failings concerned the way in which allegations of torture were managed. Neither the Immigration Rule 35 process nor the Medico-Legal Report process was working as intended.

This report makes nine recommendations for improvement and the Home Office has accepted five of these and partially accepted the remaining four. The recommendations are below:

  1. Identify from the Quality Analysis Team’s work why the screening process was falling short of ‘satisfactory’ and use the learning to ensure that guidance, training and supervision of interviewers is fit for purpose.
    The Home Office accepted this recommendation
     –  
  2. Replace the internal target for screening interview timeliness with a published service standard, and monitor performance against those service standards to reduce risk to overall efficiency and effectiveness.
    The Home Office partially accepted this recommendation.
     –
  3. Improve the routine capture and analysis of data and management information in respect of asylum cases managed by the Third Country Unit (TCU) in order to understand why Formal Requests (FR) to other States to accept responsibility are unsuccessful and why removals by the TCU fail, and take the necessary steps to reduce both.
    The Home Office accepted this recommendation
     –
  4. Review the arrangements for handling claims of torture, in particular:

    identify the reasons why Rule 35 submissions fail, and why failed Rule 35 submissions subsequently succeed under the medico-legal route, and feed back to those involved in producing and reviewing Rule 35 submissions; and

    explore how to accelerate the medico-legal route for asylum claimants, in the meantime adjusting the Asylum Policy Instruction reference to a five-month process to match the reality.

    The Home Office partially accepted this recommendation.

  5. Extend the ‘second pair of eyes’ process for asylum claims based on membership of a particular social group (PSG) in order to improve the quality of decision-making in all complex and sensitive cases.
    The Home Office partially accepted this recommendation.
     –
  6. While remaining on top of ‘straightforward’ asylum claims so that they meet the six-month service standard from lodging the claim to providing the claimant with a decision, explore ways to reduce the number of ‘non-straightforward’ cases that are more than 12 months old.
    The Home Office accepted this recommendation
     –
  7. Ensure that decision-makers follow Home Office guidance when considering applications for settlement from individuals who have been granted Discretionary Leave as an Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Child (UASC), and that they record this in sufficient detail.
    The Home Office accepted this recommendation
     –
  8. Publish service standards for extension of leave and settlement applications in UASC cases, and ensure that the further leave process is managed to provide timely decisions and to maintain appropriate contact with applicants (or their guardian or social worker) pending the decision.
    The Home Office partially accepted this recommendation.
     –
  9. Review roles, responsibilities (including oversight) and resources in relation to the administration of paper files for asylum claimants in order to reduce the number of misfiled documents and to ensure that claimants’ original documents are stored securely.
    The Home Office accepted this recommendation

 The report was sent to the Home Secretary on 9 December 2015.

An Inspection of Asylum Casework. Full Report.

The Home Office response to the Chief Inspector’s report on Asylum Casework.

The Chief Inspector inspected Border Force’s management of immigration and customs controls of non-scheduled aircraft and maritime traffic know as General Aviation and General Maritime.

This inspection followed on from earlier inspections by the ICIBI and a more recent report from the National Audit Office; ‘The Border Force: securing the border.’ Against this background, the inspection examined the effectiveness and efficiency of Border Force in capturing information about, and responding appropriately to, GA and GM movements

The inspection found that levels of knowledge and understanding of the threats and risks remained generally poor. However, the system of General Aviation Reports (GARs) and the General Aviation Risk assessment Tool (GARAT), if used correctly and consistently, provided Border Force with an efficient and effective way of managing its response to GA flights. While there were gaps and inconsistencies in working practices, overall, Border Force was making good use of GARs and GARATs for immigration purposes, less obviously so for customs purposes.

Coverage of GM was poor by comparison, in large part because of the absence of information in advance about GM arrivals, over which Border Force had little immediate control. Nonetheless, Border Force had not been efficient or effective enough within current limitations, or in improving its coverage in the longer-term, although it had more recently recognised the need to address this.

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt commented:

“Both GA and GM pose significant challenges for Border Force and for the other agencies involved in managing threats to the security of the UK. This report identifies a number of areas where Border Force needs to make improvements, particularly in relation to GM.

“The Home Office has accepted eight of my recommendations, and has partially accepted the ninth. Border Force has outlined the measures it will take to implement these recommendations, and I look forward to seeing the results of this work.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Border Force is the directorate of the Home Office that is responsible the immigration and customs controls at all UK ports.
    c
  2. General Aviation and General Maritime are defined as:
  • General Aviation – any aircraft not operating to a specific and published schedule and not making a military flight; and
  • General Maritime – non-scheduled, un-canalised4 and non-commercial maritime traffic (including vessels such as yachts, tugs, Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and small motor boats. It can also include small commercial vessels, identified through intelligence as being used solely for smuggling purposes).
  1. The inspection covered the period from February – July 2015
  2. The inspection team visited ports and operators in Aberdeen, Biggin Hill, Birmingham, Farnborough, Luton, Manchester and Southampton Airports, and airfield managers at Lee-on-the-Solent and Cranfield. And marina owners/harbour masters at Aberdeen, Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead in Scotland, and at Lymington, Poole and Weymouth on the South Coast.
  3. The Chief Inspector will not be doing any live or recorded interviews. For media enquiries please contact Alex Cheatle on 0203 513 0442 or email alexander.cheatle@icinspector.gsi.gov.uk .

The Chief Inspector publishes his inspection report on How the Home Office Tackles Illegal Working.

There are no reliable estimates for the numbers of migrants working illegally in the UK. They try to stay beneath the radar, and their employers are either negligent in respect of their obligations to check their employees’ ‘right to work’ or complicit in hiding such work from the authorities.

The Home Office acknowledges, and there is broad acceptance, that the actual and perceived ease of finding paid work is a significant ‘pull factor’ for migrants looking to enter the UK illegally or to remain here without the legal right to do so.

This inspection focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of efforts by the Home Office’s Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams to tackle known and suspected instances of illegal working. ICE teams are part of Immigration Enforcement Directorate (IE). They have powers to interview, arrest and detain immigration offenders found working illegally. The inspection looked at whether these powers were being exercised in accordance with the law and with Home Office guidance. It also looked at the effectiveness of the IE team levying civil penalties against employers who had failed to comply with all regulations.

Prior to 2014, the primary focus for ICE teams was enforcement visits to businesses, mostly restaurants and takeaways, to locate and arrest illegal workers with a view to their enforced removal from the UK. In 2014, the emphasis shifted to ‘educational visits’ to encourage employers to comply with their obligations, and as a result to deny illegal migrants easy access to paid work and increase the numbers leaving the UK voluntarily.

The comparative effectiveness of this ‘new’ approach was hard to assess. However, the Home Office’s interim evaluation of an operation in the areas with the highest known numbers of illegal workers indicated that it had increased voluntary departures. Alongside this, the Home Office had identified and implemented, or had begun to implement, a number of improvements in related processes, for example: widening the allocation of biometric residence permits to make it easier for employers to check employees’ status; reviewing operational guidance and making it more accessible; enhancing local assurance regimes.

The inspection confirmed the need for these improvements and others. It found weaknesses and inconsistencies in operational training and practice. For example, after initial training, new ICE team members were mentored within their team, but this was not supported centrally and therefore varied in content and quality. Detailed examination of 293 official notebooks and other records identified poor record keeping and failures to comply with guidance (and, in some instances, with legislation) in relation to obtaining lawful entry to premises, pursuit of individuals away from target premises, cautioning, questioning and use of handcuffs.

The report makes eight recommendations with an emphasis on operational training, supervision and assurance.

The report was sent to the Home Secretary on 28 October 2015.

David Bolt
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

The Chief Inspector publishes his inspection report on Removals

Foreword to the Chief Inspector’s report on Removals

The enforced removal from the UK of individuals who have no legal right to remain is costly and complex. The Home Office therefore looks to encourage such individuals to leave the UK voluntarily, employing various incentives and reserving enforced removal for those cases where it has judged that voluntary departure will not work or is not appropriate. Individuals opting for voluntary departure are able to have their return paid for at public expense, although this will extend the length of time before they may apply to re-enter the UK. Enforced removals result in a ten-year re-entry ban.

The Immigration Act 2014 contained a package of measures aimed at maximising voluntary returns through the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for individuals without the legal right to remain in the UK. New legislative measures included making it more difficult to open a bank account, to obtain rented accommodation and to apply for a driving licence.

This inspection found that there had been a significant increase in the number of individuals who had opted to depart voluntarily using the Home Office’s voluntary departure services. Advance passenger information (API) also identified an increased number of individuals with no right to remain departing without notifying the Home Office or availing themselves of such services, though the increase needs to be seen in the context of improved data collection.

Operationally, the inspection identified a disconnect between the work of the National Removals Command (NRC) and front-line enforcement teams, with at least some of the latter questioning the effectiveness of the NRC and arguing that enforced removals performance had deteriorated since it was created. The NRC argued that performance had varied from team to team. Irrespective of these arguments, the NRC and enforcement teams needed to align themselves better, not least to ensure that enforcement operations were cost-effective, and to reduce instances where immigration offenders were detained but had to be released because there were no available detention beds (and, in a significant number of cases, then absconded).

The removal of families was yet more complex and created additional challenges. The Home Office had introduced Family Engagement Managers (FEM) to encourage and assist with family removals, particularly those families who were resistant to the idea of departing. However, the inspection found that FEMs were too often engaged in minor administrative tasks in support of families who had indicated an intention to depart voluntarily. This was not the best use of their specialist training or grade.

The report was sent to the Home Secretary on 22 October 2015.

David Bolt
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

The Chief Inspector publishes a Supplementary Annual Report covering the period November 2014 – March 2015

Foreword

This Supplementary Annual Report covers the period November 2014 to March 2015, and should be read in conjunction with the Annual Report 2013-2014, published in December 2014. This report covers the final two months of my predecessor John Vine’s tenure as Independent Chief Inspector, and the first three months of 2015, when there was no-one in post. All of the inspections referred to in this report were completed by John Vine and the comments in this report repeat his findings and observations.

The purpose in producing a Supplementary Annual Report 2014-15 is to bring the Inspectorate’s Annual Report cycle into line with its published programme of inspections, which runs from 1 April to 31 March each year. It also means that the next Annual Report will coincide more closely with my period of office (I took up my appointment on 1 May 2015).

David Bolt
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

Supplementary Annual Report November 2014 – March 2015