British asylum process is unjust and a lottery, Home Office whistleblowers reveal

Whistleblowers have revealed to the Guardian how the British asylum process is a lottery and unjust.

Many asylum interviews, they said, are rushed, biased and resolved by “cut and paste” decisions by overworked Home Office staff.

The whistleblowers who are former Home Office staff who used to make decisions on asylum claims, said some of their colleagues had a harsh, even abusive, attitude towards applicants, mocking them to one another and employing “intimidation tactics” during interviews.

They described the British asylum system as “a lottery” whose outcome depended on the personal views of the decision-maker who picked up the file.

Some of their colleagues took pride in rarely, if ever, granting asylum. “I know some people that have left, they had been here a few years, [who] only did one or two grants of asylum, which in my eyes is just absurd,” said one former caseworker told the Guardian.

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“It’s just a lottery,” said another. “Because if you’ve got a caseworker who was particularly refusal-minded and was determined to catch you out then you’re going to have a hard time … There was one particular guy who had a reputation for never granting anything. He kind of took pride in that as well. On the one occasion when he did grant someone, I think someone brought him in a cake.”

They described as “ridiculously unrealistic” the productivity targets, where decision-makers are required to complete 225 interviews or decision reports a year.

Such a high turnover rate among staff made work difficult, the whistleblowers told the Guardian.

“It affects the quality of the decisions,” one of the whistleblowers told the Guardian. “By the time you have been through the photos, the file, the news reports, it’s three o’clock and then you have to draft a report [a decision on someone’s claim, which can often be more than 20 pages long]. Can you do that in two hours?”

Refugee Action said the report was disturbing. “These cases are a matter of life and death for many, and should be fair, balanced and just – not the luck of the draw.”

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