UK immigration watchdog says only 13% of failed asylum seekers deported

While appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee on 4th December 2012, John Vine, the UK's chief selector of immigration confirmed that only 104 of 764 asylum seekers who were refused leave to remain in the UK between April 2011 and February 2012 were removed from the country.

Steve McCabe MP asked Mr Vine whether the UKBA had given Mr Vine any explanation for this failure.

Mr Vine said that 'there wasn't any explanation as such' but said that he thought that the organisation was organised in 'silos'

He said, 'The enforcement arm is not part of the same directorate as the asylum section' and added 'More should be done to ensure that these cases are treated as a priority by local immigration teams'.

Migration Refusals Pool

Mr Vine said that he had seen similar situations at the UKBA before. He gave the example of his discovery of the 'Migration Refusals Pool', a list of 150,000 cases in which the applicants had had their applications refused but which had not been acted upon because the UKBA did not know where the applicant was. Mr Vine had been told about this pool of cases by a local immigration enforcement team in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is the job of enforcement teams to find and remove those without leave to stay in the country. However, incredibly, the Hampshire/Isle of Wight team did not understand that they had a duty to expel the failed asylum seekers in the Migration Refusals Pool from the country.

He said 'The local immigration [enforcement] team didn't have an understanding of its responsibilities to remove those people from the UK.' He said that local immigration teams had different priorities. He said that it was necessary for the UKBA to ensure that different parts of the organisation were aware of their responsibilities so that, when someone was refused leave to remain in the country, something was done about it.

Mr Vine said that he knew of three asylum cases which had been reviewed by the Case Review Directorate (CRD). The CRD was not empowered to decide cases but only reviewed them and made recommendations as to what the final decision should be. In each of the three cases, the CRD recommended that the asylum application should be refused. The CRD then passed these three cases to the Case Audit and Assurance Unit (CAAU).

The CAAU was allowed to make decisions on cases and, having received the three cases that Mr Vine referred to, it made decisions on all three. In each case, the CAAU ignored the recommendation of the CRD and allowed the applicant leave to remain in the UK.

Lack of notes on files makes review 'pointless'

Mr Vine said that he had no idea why the CRD recommended that the applications should be refused nor why the CAAU actually granted leave to remain in any of the three cases because it is not the current practice in the UKBA asylum section to record the rationale for any decisions on the file. Mr Vine said that the UKBA does not make a note of the rationale for any decision on the file which makes reviewing the files 'pointless'.

Mr Vine was asked by Mr McCabe 'whether there was any way of knowing whether they (the UKBA) have carried out any checks [against government databases such as the national police computer] at all And how much confidence he had that the 6,000 cases granted asylum under the legacy scheme were accurately, and legitimately granted with a fair, rational decision?'

Mr Vine replied that that he could not know how the decisions were made as no record was kept of the reasons for any decision. Therefore he could not have any confidence that they were consistent or properly reasoned. He added that, if the UKBA were to keep proper notes of their reasons for making any decision, it would drastically reduce the number of appeals and reviews of UKBA decisions that would succeed in the courts.

UKBA should record reasoning behind decisions

He was asked whether it ought to be a requirement for the UKBA to make a note of the rationale for decisions, particularly where the decision was to overturn a previous decision.

'Yes' he replied.

Mr Vine said that there were various problems with the UKBA.
• There was a lack of accountability from the top down
• Data integrity and management of data were poor
• Compliance was an issue
• Accountability was an issue and could be improved from top to bottom. He said that there were no mechanisms in place to ensure accountability.
• He criticised the agency for creating imprecise terminology and creating a bewildering array of units identified by meaningless acronyms that no one understood.
• He said that the UKBA had a range of obscure terminology that seemed designed to mislead. Cases could be concluded, or reviewed or closed and the meaning was very different in each case
• He said that the agency has consistently claimed to solve problems but has failed to do so.
• Documents were often wrongly filed. He said that, during one review of 400 cases he found that 7% were wrongly filed.

Mr Vine said that the Home Secretary had commissioned him to conduct an investigation of the legacy asylum casework which he would be conducting in the new year.

The MPs thanked Mr Vine for his work. They suggested, playfully, that he might like to apply for the vacant position of Permanent Secretary to the Home Office and expressed their hope that he would be reappointed to his position when his current contract comes to an end in June 2013.

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