John Vine, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, has accused the UK Border Agency of supplying inaccurate information to Parliament about the backlog of asylum cases.
In a new report on the Agency’s handling of legacy asylum and migration cases, Mr. Vine said his findings did not correlate with the information that Agency provided to Parliament.
The report identified inefficiency, poor customer service and a lack of security and data checks as key failings in the way the UK Border Agency dealt with the legacy of unresolved asylum cases.
In 2006 the then Home Secretary made a commitment that the UK Border Agency must “deal with” the legacy of unresolved asylum cases no later than the summer of 2011.
The Case Resolution Directorate (CRD) was subsequently created in 2007 to ‘conclude’ these cases. The Agency stated that it had achieved this aim at the end of March 2011. However, 147,000 cases remained unresolved, some, where barriers to conclusion existed, as well as archived cases where applicants could not be traced.
As a result, the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) was created in April 2011 to specifically deal with these outstanding cases. The inspection examined how well the transition of work from CRD to CAAU was managed. It also examined the efficiency and effectiveness of the handling of legacy asylum and migration cases in general.
Mr. Vine said: “I found that updates given by the Agency to Parliament in the summer of 2011, stating that the legacy of unresolved asylum cases was resolved, were inaccurate. In fact, the programme of legacy work is far from resolved. On the evidence I found, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that cases were placed in the archive after only very minimal work in order to fulfil the pledge to conclude this work by the summer of 2011.”
Mr. Vine also found out that “security checks on controlled archive cases had not been undertaken routinely or consistently since April 2011, and data matching with other departments in order to trace applicants had not begun until April this year. This was unacceptable and at odds with the assurances given to the Home Affairs Select Committee.”
Many applicants, Mr. Vine said, were adversely affected by the flawed implementation of a policy change in July 2011 together with poor customer service.
The flawed implementation of the policy change “led to lengthy and distressing delays for affected asylum applicants, including former unaccompanied asylum seeking children, whose cases should have been dealt with in a timely fashion,” Mr. Vine said.
The Chief Inspector noted that the UK Border Agency was so inefficient in handling the cases “that at one point over 150 boxes of post, including correspondence from applicants, MPs and their legal representatives lay unopened in a room in Liverpool.”
Mr. Vine made ten recommendations to the UK Border Agency including conducting routine and regular data matching exercises on cases yet to be concluded.
He also urged the Agency to ensure information presented to the Home Affairs Select Committee is accurate, and embed a stronger quality assurance framework within the CAAU.
Noting that the UK Border Agency had started to tackle the problems at the time of his inspection, the Chief Inspector asked the Agency to “make a new commitment to the resolution of legacy cases and stick to it.”
He also urged the Agency to provide “absolutely accurate” information about progress to Parliament and other stakeholders so that its performance “in this high profile area of work can be evaluated effectively.”