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Judgment on appeals and new asylum cases to be made more expedite

The reform of the appeals process for failed asylum appeals will bring time and costeffectiveness, says Woolas

17 June 2009. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has announced that appeals filed by failed asylum seekers will now be decided expeditiously.

Even the previous decisions are being reviewed by senior caseworkers to reduce the number of appeals; and the immigration control system is being streamlined as well.

With reduction in time taken to conclude new asylum cases, the costs are expected to go down. Even now asylum support costs are £550 million lower than they were in 2003-04. The Home Office hopes to reduce these further.

Woolas says the Home Office is "taking action to reform the appeals process to speed up appeals, control abusive legal challenges and deliver more effective immigration control".

The assertion comes in response to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report ‘Management of Asylum Applications’, which talked of misplaced priorities. The report had indicated the government was concentrating more on deportation of foreign national prisoners, than failed asylum seekers.

Woolas says: "To improve the quality of our asylum decisions, and reduce the number of cases that go to appeal, senior caseworkers and line managers are now reviewing at least 10 per cent of all asylum decisions.

"A dedicated team conducts regular quality assessments, and we work closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which has praised the quality of our asylum as exemplary".

Over 155,500 older, ‘legacy’ asylum cases have been concluded by January 2009, and we are confident we are going to meet our target to conclude all the legacy cases by 2011, he says.

Justifying its stand, Woolas says: "’The public have made it clear they expect us to target the most harmful people first – that’s why we removed a record 5,400 foreign criminals last year.

"But that doesn’t mean we’re resting on our laurels in other areas. In 2008, over 66,000 people were removed or voluntarily departed – that is a five per cent increase on the previous year. We’re also expanding our detention capacity to create 60 per cent more places, and now have nearly 3,000 bed spaces".

He adds the UK Border Agency has already strengthened checks on decision-making, recruited more staff and reached a key milestone to conclude over 60 per cent of new asylum cases within six months.’

Woolas further says they expect to increase rate of overall removals by concluding more new asylum cases within six months. An extra 270 case owners will soon be in place following a successful national recruitment campaign. Further campaigns are also being planned.

Besides this, they are making use of increased detention capacity. This includes 426 new beds for single males at Brook House near Gatwick, which opened in March 2009.

The processes for securing travel documents, booking flights and escorts are also being improved. Following a successful pilot, a new process will be rolled out nationally from next month. Sustainable arrangements with overseas countries to return foreign prisoners, failed asylum seekers and other immigration offenders too are being built up.

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