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Asylum system under strain

11 October 2013

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its report ‘Asylum’ on Friday 11 October 2013 after a 10 month inquiry into the asylum system beginning 25 February 2013.

The Committee found that:

  • Backlog generator
    The length of time it takes to get an initial decision on an asylum claim is increasing. The number of applicants still waiting for an initial decision after six months rose by 63% in 2012. The Committee consider it wholly unacceptable that anyone should have to wait longer than 6 months for an initial decision, let alone the delays of many years for those caught in the legacy backlog. The Committee is concerned that although the deadline for the legacy cases to have been resolved was the summer of 2011, at the end of March 2013 there were still 32,600 legacy asylum cases which had yet to be concluded.

  • Terrorists granted asylum
    The quality of decision making is also of great concern to the Committee as 30% of appeals against initial decisions were allowed in 2012. The impact of decisions are grave – if asylum is not granted when it should be then the UK is failing to protect a vulnerable person. If it asylum is granted when it is not deserved then the UK may well end up harbouring war criminals and terrorists. The quality of decision making must be improved and the Committee recommends that one way of doing this is to institute auditing of casework.

  • Sub-standard housing
    The Committee were very concerned by the description of the sub-standard level of housing provided to asylum applicants as part of the COMPASS contract, also the length of time it is taking to get problems resolved is unacceptable. The Committee recommends that the Home Office publish the results of its random inspections of properties so that the public may monitor the effectiveness of the housing providers— SERCO, G4S and Clearel— receiving hundreds of millions of pounds in public money.

  • Level of support
    The Committee highlighted concerns about the level of support available to those who seek asylum in the UK. The Committee concluded that Section 4 is not the solution for people who have been refused asylum but cannot be returned to their country of origin and called on the Government to find a better way forward. The Committee recommended that asylum support should not be discontinued for someone who has been granted asylum until the DWP has confirmed that the recipient is receiving mainstream benefits. This will avoid the current situation where many become destitute due to the time taken to access mainstream benefits.

Chair's comments

Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Committee said:

“The asylum system is overburdened and under severe pressure. The backlog of asylum cases that should have been cleared by 2011 has reached 32,600, with some people waiting up to 16 years for a decision. The system needs to work, otherwise applicants are trapped in a cycle of helplessness and vulnerability.

We were alarmed to discover that thousands appear to be living in squalid run-down housing as part of the COMPASS contract supplied by the private contractors G4S, Serco and Clearel. These companies must be held accountable and deliver a satisfactory level of service. It is unacceptable that in 21st century Britain thousands of people are forced into destitution due to the inefficiencies of the system.

We are gravely concerned by asylum decisions taken which have led to the UK sheltering individuals. Those who apply for asylum should be checked against national and international law enforcement agency and security databases to ensure that we are not harbouring those who intend us harm.. The Home Secretary has to assure us that any anomalies in the process, which have allowed decisions such as this to take place, are addressed immediately.”

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