Disposing 90 per cent of asylum cases in 6 months “unachievable”

Mission impossible, says government’s immigration watchdog

26 February 2010: Less than 10 days after the UK Border Agency claimed it was aiming at concluding all asylum cases within six months, the government’s immigration watchdog has asserted the targets is currently "unachievable".

The chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine, has asserted to meet this target 11,000 cases a month need to be resolved, but latest figures show only 4,500 a month had been dealt with during 2009.

The report, the first by Vine on asylum as the UK Border Agency’s independent inspector, said considerable progress had indeed been made in resolving 235,000 of the legacy of older cases, but it was unlikely that the rest of the target would be met by the summer of 2011.

Strategic director for criminality and detention David Wood had earlier asserted: ‘We are concluding cases faster than ever before.

`Our aim to conclude all asylum cases within six months means that removal will occur soon after individuals have exhausted their rights of appeal, meaning all legal challenges should have been dealt with before a decision to remove and detain if necessary.’

The assertion had come in response to a media report on detainees in immigration removal centres. (See `Asylum cases being concluded faster than ever before’: UKBA).

But it is now being asserted that there is a new backlog of 30,000 cases. Reacting to the statistics, Vine asserted the target of dealing with 90 per cent of the asylum cases within six months was practically "unachievable" with current resources.

Vine also asserted it was unlikely that the government would succeed in meeting the July 2011 deadline, set up in 2006 when the special five-year exercise was undertaken to clear the legacy of 450,000 unresolved asylum cases.

The report said his inspectors found by last July end there were already 29,474 cases that had not been concluded within six months.

He added it was apparent that the staff had not been able to achieve the target of resolving 60 per cent of asylum claims within six months. They were, rather, struggling to achieve the monthly completion rate consistently above 45 per cent.

Quoting an example, Vine said in one UKBA region, the staff started to stockpile cases dating back to March, April and May, so they could focus on the new cases in June in an attempt to meet the unrealistic target.

Giving reasons, Vine said the asylum caseworkers were dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society. As such, it was imperative to strike the right balance between targets and quality decision-making. He said it should be remembered that, first and foremost, it was about people’s lives.

Lin Homer, UKBA chief executive, on the other hand said: "The UK Border Agency is concluding asylum cases faster than ever before, with the majority concluded within six months, down from an average of 22 months in 1997. We are working to ensure there is a realistic plan for dealing with all asylum claims that have not been concluded within six months."

She said that special teams had been set up to deal with the new backlog of cases not resolved within six months and still believed that the targets of dealing of 90% of new claims within that time limit could be achieved by the end of next year.

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