Refugee and Migrant Justice has welcomed the announcement of an internal inquiry into a UK Border Agency whistleblower’s allegations of institutionalised racism.
Caroline Slocock, Chief Executive at Refugee and Migrant Justice said:
“These shocking allegations confirm the long-held allegations that there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ at the UK Border Agency. We welcome Lin Homer’s announcement that an independent inquiry will investigate the claims. RMJ’s lawyers have received numerous accounts by clients that their claims have not been believed, often in spite of overwhelming evidence that their statements are true.
“With almost one in three asylum appeals now winning at independent tribunals, it is clear that the UK Border Agency is failing to consider all the evidence when assessing initial asylum claims. The UKBA should reform its processes as soon as possible to ensure that decisions are taken on the evidence, not on the basis of prejudice.”
Louise Perrett, who worked for three and a half months as a case owner at the Border Agency office in Cardiff last summer, told the Home Affairs Select Committee Hearing this week that staff kept a stuffed gorilla, a ‘grant monkey’, as a badge of shame for officers who approved an asylum application.
Perrett, 29, also alleged that one official boasted of testing claims of boys from African countries had been forcibly conscripted as child soldiers by making them lie down on the floor and show how they shot people in the bush.
The latest immigration figures, released by the Home Office in its quarterly statistical summary, revealed 73 per cent of the 24,550 initial asylum claims were turned down by the Home Office in 2009. In the same year there were 14,595 asylum appeals lodged, 4,150 (28 per cent) of which were accepted at an independent tribunal.
In 2007/2008 the Home Office ran a The Early Legal Advice Pilot, a pilot decision-making process in Solihull, to test the impact of giving asylum seekers early access to quality legal advice, with a process which focused decision-making on the evidence. Success rates at the initial stage in this pilot were considerably higher than the national average, and an independent evaluation concluded that it demonstrated potential for significant cost savings by reducing the number of cases that had to go to appeal. This process is to be adopted in the Midlands region from October and RMJ would like to see it adopted nationally as soon as possible.
Refugee and Migrant Justice, formerly the Refugee Legal Centre, is the largest specialist national provider of legal representation to asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. RMJ was awarded the Liberty/Justice Human Rights Award in 2005, in particular for its litigation work with Zimbabwean asylum seekers.
To watch a recording of the Home Affairs Select Committee Meeting, log on to:
To read the Home Office 2009 figures in full, log on to: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/immiq409.pdf
The average cost of an asylum appeal is £2,730.57. This breaks down to £1,477 for judicial salaries and fees, accommodation and IT costs; and £1,253.57 for support and accommodation. The real cost is likely to be much higher, as legal fees have not been included. These figures come from the Home Office report Evaluation of the Solihull Pilot, page 66, which is available here: http://www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/2009/DEP2009-1107.pdf
Further reading: The Independent Asylum Commission report ‘Fit For Purpose?’ alleges there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ in the Home Office:
Visit our website: http://www.rmj.org.uk/
For more information, please contact Alex Valk, media and communications officer at Refugee and Migrant Justice firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 780 3214.
Media and Communications Officer
Refugee and Migrant Justice
0207 780 3214