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Report Demonstrates How The Home Office Is Still Failing Asylum Seekers

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- By Oshin Shahiean of OTS Solicitors

A report by David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, on the Home Office’s Asylum casework operations and the quality of its decision-making was released this week.

The inspection involved a review of the following:

  • 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 also examined routing of applicants for consideration under the Detained Fast Track (DFT) procedures; the Third Country Unit’s (TCU) management of cases; and the process for considering further leave applications by Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children (UASC).

Although the report found the Home Office had made significant improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness regarding the management of Asylum cases during 2014/15, a number of areas still required improvements.

Areas Where the Home Office Needs to Improve

A number of areas needing improvement were identified in the report. These include:

  • Around 20% of the paper files inspected revealed some form of administrative error. Some of these errors, such as failing to store applicants’ original documents securely could have serious consequences.
  • For the first three-quarters of 2014/15, excluding those conducted by the Asylum Intake Unit (AIU), over 40% of the screening records quality assured were assessed as ‘weak’ or ‘fail’, and by Quarter 4 the figure was over 50%.
  • The Home Office’s internal ten-day target for screening interviews was often missed, with no contingency plans put in place.
  • The quality of the substantive interviews of Asylum claimants was found to be lacking. Claimants need to be given an opportunity to identify the material facts of their claim, address any inconsistencies and not be asked questions which they cannot be expected to answer. Records should also be kept regarding the rationale and reasoning process the decision-maker took in making his or her decision. This information may be important if the applicant challenges a decision on administrative or judicial review grounds.
  • A quarter of interviews started 30 minutes late, with no explanation recorded.
  • Some interviews were more than four hours long, and longer interviews led to poorer quality overall.

Failings in the Correct Handling of Asylum Applications by Torture Survivors

Some of the most serious failings highlighted by the report involved Asylum seekers who were the victims of torture. For example, one current claimant has to wait two and a half years for a medico-legal report. The main reasons for such extraordinary delays is the Home Office’s insistence on only accepting medico-legal reports from the Freedom From Torture and Helen Bamber Foundation.

Another area of grave concern is the fact the report highlighted that of 1,400 Rule 35 reports by qualified medical practitioners raising concerns about the detention of a possible torture survivor, 85% were rejected by the Home Office. Many of these individuals went on to be released after their case was referred to outside organisations.

Rule 34 of the Detention Rules 2001 states that every person who enters an Immigration detention centre shall undergo a physical and mental examination by a medical practitioner within 24 hours of entering the facility. Rule 35 then goes on to state as follows:

Special illnesses and conditions (including torture claims)

35.—(1) The medical practitioner shall report to the manager on the case of any detained person whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued detention or any conditions of detention.

(2) The medical practitioner shall report to the manager on the case of any detained person he suspects of having suicidal intentions, and the detained person shall be placed under special observation for so long as those suspicions remain, and a record of his treatment and condition shall be kept throughout that time in a manner to be determined by the Secretary of State.

(3) The medical practitioner shall report to the manager on the case of any detained person who he is concerned may have been the victim of torture.

(4) The manager shall send a copy of any report under paragraphs (1), (2) or (3) to the Secretary of State without delay.

(5) The medical practitioner shall pay special attention to any detained person whose mental condition appears to require it, and make any special arrangements (including counselling arrangements) which appear necessary for his supervision or care.

In 2013, the British nation was shocked and horrified when Alois Dvorzac, an 84-year-old Canadian national died after being held in detention and handcuffed for five hours. A doctor did apparently write a Rule 35 report, and it stated:

“Frail, 84 yrs old, has Alzheimer’s disease … demented. UNFIT for detention or deportation. Requires social care.”

The original HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report stated the caseworker responsible for Mr Dvorzac “failed to respond to the Rule 35 report on time and had had to be chased twice before he had replied”, then attempted to have Mr Dvorzac forcibly removed from the UK before he was declared unfit to fly.

Despite the disgust and revulsion expressed that such an appalling incident happened in a first world country like Britain, it appears that conditions are ripe for such a tragedy to occur again.

The failings highlighted in the Independent Chief Inspector’s report show that people wishing to seek Asylum in the UK require experienced legal representation more than ever, to protect their Human Rights and best interests. OTS Solicitors is a highly respected London based law firm and is regarded as having one of the best Immigration teams in the UK.

To talk to us about your rights as an Asylum seeker and obtain legal advice regarding your case, please call our London office on 0207 936 9960 to talk to one of our Immigration solicitors.

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