Select Committee on Home Affairs Fifth Report


1.The Committee recognises that modern patterns of migration pose particular challenges for the Government. We believe that facilitating travel for tourists, family members, students, businesspeople and workers who meet labour needs that cannot otherwise be met is essential to our national interests. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate and UKvisas must offer these people a high level of service and cannot simply be organisations designed to exclude people from the country. At the same time, we share the public expectation that the Government must minimise the number of those able to abuse the immigration system. (Paragraph 55)
2.Any system of immigration control must tackle illegal migration effectively, otherwise public confidence in the system is undermined, resentment and mistrust abound and exploitation is inevitable. (Paragraph 72)
3.Although the numbers are inevitably uncertain, it is quite clear that a substantial proportion of illegal migration arises from those who originally entered the country legitimately and legally but who subsequently failed to comply with their leave. They may have been refused the right to remain or simply overstayed. As the immigration system aims, rightly, to facilitate legal migration for ever greater numbers of travellers, it is inevitable that illegal migration will continue to be fuelled by those who become illegal once in the country. This represents one of the more fundamental changes to the purpose of the immigration system in the twenty-first century. The focus can no longer remain so heavily weighted towards initial entry and border control. While these controls must be sustained and indeed improved, far greater effort will in future have to go into the enforcement of the Immigration Rules within the UK. A major test of the Government's new approach to the IND will be the extent to which it has recognised the importance and implication of this change. (Paragraph 73)
Controls overseas
4.We recommend that the Government should look again at the constitution of UKvisas with a view to unifying the terms and conditions of all of its staff. More fundamentally, it may also wish to consider whether it is in the best interests of an effective and comprehensive system of immigration control for the overseas operation to be separate from the IND. (Paragraph 81)
5.UKvisas' budgets should be much more transparent if it is to demonstrate clearly that the operation is self-financing. In the light of growing numbers of applications, there should be more flexibility over the accommodation budget. (Paragraph 84)
6.The number of visa applications looks set to continue rising. UKvisas should not place a heavy reliance on the use of temporary staff to meet this demand. As we state throughout this report, the quality of initial decisions has an impact on the entire immigration system. Measures that lower the cost of front-line staff at the expense of quality are not likely to be cost-effective. (Paragraph 89)
7.Outsourcing the collection of visa applications seems to be of great benefit to both applicants and visa sections, and its expansion should be supported as long as close links can be maintained with visa sections. (Paragraph 94)
8.A comprehensive network of application centres, approved travel agents and couriers should be put in place for collecting visa applications and providing information to applicants, with appropriate measures for preventing fraud and abuse such as requiring applicants to collect their passports in person. Once this is done, we can see no overriding reason why paper-based applications should not be dealt with by country-specific teams in regional processing centres or even in the UK. In principle this could reduce problems of high staff turnover and raise the quality of decision-making whilst reducing the cost of the operation, though interviewing would clearly still have to be done at posts. We recommend that UKvisas should conduct a full feasibility study of this proposal at the earliest possible opportunity. (Paragraph 97)
9.Entry Clearance Officers have specific expectations of the documents needed to support an application. These are not set out in the Immigration Rules nor explained in guidance for applicants. Where there are specific requirements in practice, this should be made clear in the Immigration Rules and in guidance for applicants. Security might be improved by changing the list of required documents from time to time. (Paragraph 104)
10.Measures that improve the quality of advice to applicants will improve the quality of initial decisions and reduce the demand on the appeals system. The Government is already considering whether or how to regulate overseas advisers.This cannot simply be an extension of the scheme for regulating UK advisers. We recommend that it either encourages UK-based advisers to operate overseas, or establishes an agent accreditation scheme for local immigration advisers. (Paragraph 113)
11.It is clearly beneficial to everyone to invest in getting decisions correct at the initial stage. Refusing applications which should have been allowed is not good customer service, can have significant consequences for applicants and their family and friends, and can lead to increased costs further down the system (from complaints, appeals or fresh applications). On the other hand, allowing applications which should have been refused weakens the control and public confidence in it and may increase the risk of overstaying and other forms of illegal migration. (Paragraph 114)
12.During our visits we were consistently impressed by the care and diligence with which entry clearance staff worked, despite often difficult conditions, rising numbers of applications and increasing levels of forgery and fraud. However, we felt that they were not always in a position to be able to make good decisions. (Paragraph 120)
13.The clearer and more specific the Immigration Rules, and the more closely they deal with realities presented by applicants, the easier it will be for caseworkers to make a correct decision which is unambiguously in accordance with those Rules and fair both to applicants and to the interests of the UK. At the moment it is very difficult for them to do so. The Immigration Rules should therefore be consolidated and redrafted to provide a clear, comprehensive and realistic framework for decisions. (Paragraph 123)
14.It must also be recognised that there will always be questions of judgment over what weight to give pieces of evidence, as well as situations which are not precisely covered by the rules. ECOs must be supported with enough training, guidance and experience to exercise their judgment where this is required. (Paragraph 124)
15.If ECOs' decisions are to withstand challenge, ECOs must be better trained on how to evaluate both oral and written evidence, and how to express the grounds for their decision in a defensible way. (Paragraph 125)
16.Although we can see the advantage of the proposed Points Based System in allowing applicants to work out much more accurately their chances of success, it must be recognised that an element of individual judgment will always be required. This will also be true of the many decisions on categories not covered by the Points Based System. Therefore there will be a continued need for well-trained, experienced, well-supported ECOs with good local knowledge. We reiterate our concern that under-investment in frontline staff is unlikely to be cost-effective across the system as a whole. (Paragraph 127)
17.The current role of the Independent Immigration Race Monitor is very limited, and yet both the IND and UKvisas are subject to a duty to promote good race relations. Race monitoring must cover all aspects of the immigration system if statutory duties are to be met. (Paragraph 128)
18.We recommend that training for visa staff should be extended and improved. Training in the UK must pay more attention to evaluating evidence, questioning applicants at interview and writing reasoned refusal notices. Posts should follow the good examples set by Accra and Islamabad particularly regarding training in local conditions and culture. We have proposed above that paper-based decisions could be made in regional centres or in the UK, but all staff would still need appropriate training and local knowledge. The use of temporary staff must be kept to a minimum. (Paragraph 134)
19.UKvisas should ensure that the ratio of managers to ECOs is high enough to allow them effectively to carry out all the quality control checks and reviews required of them. (Paragraph 135)
20.We support the intention underlying the recent measures to improve the quality of decision-making overseas, but urgent consideration should be given to assessing whether quality is indeed improving as a result. The savings resulting from investment in good initial decision-making should also be assessed. (Paragraph 136)
21.All unsuccessful applicants should be given the opportunity for an internal review of the decision, to which they could submit any further evidence. There should be clear rules and procedures on how such reviews should be carried out, and reviews should be available for appealable as well as non-appealable refusals as they would reduce the likelihood of going to appeal. We believe that the Government should assess the feasibility of a "minded to refuse" stage for both overseas and in-country applications. (Paragraph 140)
22.The UK has a much tighter target for speed of visa decisions than most other countries. Turnaround times for applications to Australia and Germany, for example, are seven or fourteen days, whereas those who want to go to the United States often have to wait for months. The degree of contrast between the UK and other countries surprised us. Whilst it is right to take pride in the speed of decision-making, there is evidence that this is happening at the expense of quality. (Paragraph 143)
23.Targets must allow more time to make decisions and to justify them robustly. Seven minutes is not enough, in our view, even for apparently straightforward applications. (Paragraph 149)
24.There should be greater recognition of the circumstances in which interviews are appropriate, and targets should allow for more interviewing than currently takes place. (Paragraph 150)
25.Current global targets for speed of processing visas are inappropriate, unhelpful, unrealistic and uncompetitive. We recommend that UKvisas sets more generous maximum targets and then works with individual posts to determine local targets that are appropriate to the local situation and security risks and the demands of good customer service. Posts should be given adequate resources to meet realistic yet challenging targets. (Paragraph 153)
26.One step which must be taken to enable individuals to be tracked through the system is to introduce a single reference number for each individual which is used to identify them in visa applications, in-country applications, appeals and enforcement. Once this is in place, the Government should investigate the possibility of ensuring that it can be transferred into other databases including those for the police, the prison and probation systems and the Department for Work and Pensions. (Paragraph 156)
27.The next version of the UKvisas caseworking system should run automatic checks against all fields in an application which would alert ECOs to possible fraud. Meanwhile staff should be given enough time to carry out systematically those checks which are possible with the current database, and managers should monitor this carefully. (Paragraph 159)
28.We encourage UKvisas to continue efforts to work more closely with other authorities, including the police, so that the best possible information on visa applicants is available to them when making a decision. (Paragraph 160)
29.We consider risk assessment work to be a potentially valuable approach which could help ensure resources are targeted at those applications where forgery or fraud are most likely. The Government must ensure that Risk Assessment Units' findings are clearly and comprehensively recorded and disseminated, and used to re-deploy staff to areas of greatest risk. The effectiveness of these measures in discovering forgery and fraud must be monitored. (Paragraph 165)
30.In every country where there is sufficient confidence in the criminal justice system, fraud and forgery in visa applications must be reported to the local police. (Paragraph 168)
31.Suspension of visa applications produces inconvenience and frustration for genuine applicants, possibly results in some applicants trying another route instead, and leads to backlogs when the category is re-opened. This is not acceptable. Where high levels of forgery or fraud are detected in a particular category such as the Working Holidaymakers scheme, UKvisas and the Home Office must consider whether such provisions should be modified or removed. Where this is not appropriate, applications should be handled by a specialist team whilst investigations are carried out. (Paragraph 170)
32.The fingerprinting of visa applicants has the potential to play an important role in an effective immigration control. However, we are concerned about the way the biometric visas programme is being implemented, given that it is an expensive project without a specific cost-benefit analysis and it is not fully integrated into other IT developments such as e-Borders. Its impact must be properly assessed to ensure that the expenditure is commensurate with the benefits it brings. (Paragraph 177)
33.If fingerprinting visa applicants is to be truly effective, in the future applicants' fingerprints must be checked against police fingerprint databases before a visa is issued, and fingerprints should also taken on arrival and departure and checked against the immigration record. (Paragraph 178)
34.We endorse the recommendations of the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee on the entry clearance operation and are encouraged by the steps already taken to implement some of them, but have been unable to chart progress on them all. (Paragraph 182)
Border controls
35. 'Exporting the border' effectively cuts down on the numbers of people travelling undocumented to the UK. We recommend that the use of Airline Liaison Officers should be expanded, and that consideration is given to how to deal with people who are stopped from travelling but may have protection needs. We repeat the call by our predecessors for the Government to be active in seeking to assist refugees in or near to their countries of origin, as well as to expand its policy for assisting refugees through UNHCR. (Paragraph 193)
36.Despite the success of recent measures in detecting people attempting to enter the UK illegally through Calais, the port is a continuing focus of attention for those seeking to evade the UK's border controls. All aspects of port security in Calais must therefore be kept under constant review and strengthened wherever necessary, and the accuracy and application of new detection technology must continue to be improved. (Paragraph 198)
37.Statistics must be kept on Immigration Officers' decisions on people subject to race discrimination authorisations, in particular to determine refusal rates by port. Appropriate action must be taken by managers if it is found that these people are treated more sceptically than other passengers. (Paragraph 205)
38.In view of the difficulties in carrying out checks at port, the Government should continue to develop methods of ensuring that travellers to the UK are checked before departure. Whilst carriers have a role to play in this, the Government should explore the implications of requiring all non-EEA nationals to get visas before any trip to the UK, looking at Australia's practice as an example and bearing in mind the need for tourists and business visitors to be able to travel to the UK without unnecessary inconvenience. (Paragraph 207)
Immigration decisions taken in the UK
39.The IND should look carefully at the categories of application it accepts at each of the Public Enquiry Offices and ensure that these are the categories most fitted to an accelerated process. (Paragraph 214)
40.Consideration should be given to introducing a network of immigration application centres in the UK, perhaps using Post Offices which already check passport applications. This would provide a local service checking that applicants have filled in forms correctly and submitted the right documents, and would also remove some of the administrative burden from the IND. Applicants could be charged a fee for using this service to cover the costs. (Paragraph 215)
41.We believe that both IND caseworkers and ECOs should be regulated to a standard equivalent to that for advisers who do publicly-funded immigration work. This would ensure not only that they are competent to begin with but also that their competence is maintained. (Paragraph 217)
42.We recommend that the IND should ensure that a team of managers is given the task of focussing on quality of decision-making in all areas of casework. It should gather information which can be used to gauge quality, assess the impact of targets, and use this information to develop training, mentoring and oversight of caseworkers. The quality control measures already in place in UKvisas, asylum casework and Work Permits (UK) may provide useful examples. (Paragraph 218)
43.A meaningful internal review is likely to be cheaper and quicker for both sides than letting a refusal go to appeal. A strategy should be developed for when and how internal reviews of refusals take place. This should cover those undertaken following a request from an applicant as well as those undertaken as part of quality sampling. Statistics must be kept of the outcome of all these reviews. (Paragraph 219)
44.We recommend that IND managers monitor caseworkers' decisions under the same-day service carefully, and compare these decisions with those on postal applications in the same categories to see if the tight time targets make a difference to outcomes. (Paragraph 222)
45.To avoid applications disappearing into 'black holes', the IND must introduce targets which cover the speed of processing all postal applications yet which take into account the need for rigorous checks. (Paragraph 223)
46.It seems to us that the IND recognises there is a problem with management, but is not entirely clear where the problem lies or what to do about it. We recommend that an outside body assess the management structures in the IND to determine how many managers are needed, and at what level, to provide an adequate level of support and control for the number of caseworkers. It should also look at whether managers have the right competencies and priorities. (Paragraph 229)
47.The use of specialist teams of IND caseworkers who can develop expertise in particular types of application should be extended further. (Paragraph 231)
48.Case managers should be assigned to immigration applications on a limited trial basis, to take charge of each application all the way through the system. Following the trial the case manager model should be assessed in both immigration and asylum cases. (Paragraph 232)
49.The IND must develop ways of integrating both overseas and in-country caseworkers' experience into policy development, by improving the way their managers gather and pass on information from them, and by encouraging policy teams to seek caseworkers' ideas or include caseworkers in those teams. (Paragraph 234)
50.Public confidence in immigration control demands the highest levels of integrity from those operating it. Managers in both the IND and UKvisas must take an active role in ensuring that their staff are not acting corruptly or improperly, and they must be supported in this by investigating teams who are equipped to spot potential areas of weakness and patterns of decision-making which could indicate a problem. (Paragraph 238)
51.We recognise that the vast majority of overseas students complete their courses and abide by the conditions of their leave. But at the same time there are concerns that the student visa route is open to abuse by people who are not genuine students. The immigration system clearly has to tackle this if public confidence in the student visa route is to be maintained. (Paragraph 242)
52.Entry clearance posts must allow enough time for ECOs to conduct proper checks on student applications. However, it should also be the responsibility of the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that there is a secure system of issuing offers which is not open to fraud. (Paragraph 248)
53.There should be an English-language requirement for all student entry clearance applications except those relating to English-language courses. It should refer to a recognised standard such as TOEFL or IELTS, and be graded according to the level of course applied for. (Paragraph 250)
54.The Managed Migration Intelligence Unit for student applications appears to be an ineffective response to a serious problem and working at an unsatisfactorily low level. We recommend that its resourcing, role and priorities be reviewed and amended so that it can tackle all the allegations made to it, in conjunction with other parts of IND and UKvisas intelligence services. (Paragraph 254)
55.The Department for Education and Skills should recognise that it has the responsibility for ensuring that colleges attracting overseas students are genuine and offer an adequate standard of education. It should own and maintain an improved register of colleges on which both students and the immigration authorities can rely to provide a reliable and up-to-date guarantee of quality. (Paragraph 257)
56.We welcome the proposals under the Points Based System to tie student visas to particular institutions and to require institutions to notify the IND if students do not attend a course. Having accurate information about the extent of non-attendance would help both to demystify the debate around abuse of student visas and also to target efforts to tackle the problem. However, there must be a straightforward way for students to notify the IND if they change course, and the IND must actively follow up any information it receives on individual students with enforcement activity wherever appropriate. (Paragraph 261)
57.The Government should put particular emphasis on encouraging the education sector to develop partnerships between British institutions and those overseas, including through greater use of distance learning, and on setting up branches of British institutions overseas. These initiatives benefit both the British education sector and foreign students. (Paragraph 263)
58.The Government should collect comprehensive statistics on the number of children who come to the UK in each category. (Paragraph 264)
59.We welcome the new Immigration Rules relating to children visiting the UK, but are concerned they do not impose any duties on other authorities to follow up the information gathered. Except in the case of children travelling to the UK with their parents or legal guardians, we recommend that children should not be granted entry clearance for any purpose until the information on the arrangements in place for them in the UK has been checked by social services and/or the police. (Paragraph 269)
60.The Government must ensure that there are clear methods for assessing the effectiveness of new measures on unaccompanied children, and that these assessments focus on the safety of the children concerned. (Paragraph 275)
61.The Government must ensure that all the authorities concerned implement the recommendations of the report on Operation Paladin Child. In particular, social services must supply teams at ports to help identify and follow up all cases of concern, not just unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. (Paragraph 278)
62.The Government must consider introducing a registration and approval system for private foster carers. It should then explore whether this would allow tighter immigration controls to be placed on chidren entering the country without their own parents. The Government should also provide support for communities where private fostering is common to develop their own ways of protecting privately fostered children. (Paragraph 284)
63.We do not propose that the Government withdraw its reservation from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it should include the immigration authorities in the duty under the Children Act 2004 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. (Paragraph 290)
64.In view of the serious difficulties caused to some applicants by the requirement to return home to apply for permission as a spouse, we recommend that where the Foreign Office advises against all travel to a particular country, applications for leave as a spouse or unmarried partner from nationals of that country who are already living in the UK be decided in the UK with an interview. (Paragraph 300)
65.The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal should make more use of its power to hold appeals in private, and if need be its rules should be amended to make it clear that forced marriage cases might be appropriate for this procedure. (Paragraph 308)
66.Forced marriage cases are now handled more sensitively than before, but better arrangements should be made for refusing spouses' visas or settlement applications on the basis of confidential information from a reluctant sponsor. The Government should consider further steps which might protect young British people from forced marriages, including interviewing all visa applicants for marriages which have been arranged at short notice. The Government might also consider encouraging visa applications for arranged marriages to be submitted before the British spouse leaves the UK. (Paragraph 311)
67.The Government should explore the feasibility of recovering the costs of providing support and safe accommodation for those victims of domestic violence who are subject to a public funds restriction. (Paragraph 314)
68.The IND should re-examine its policy of not providing information to "third parties", with a view to providing information to sponsors (or their representatives) about the immigration status of people they have sponsored. This could provide welcome reassurance to those in fear of domestic violence. Once embarkation controls are in place, the IND will have much better information on whether or not a person has left the country. (Paragraph 315)
69.The Government is right to take measures against sham or bogus marriages. The Bogus Marriage Task Force should be reconvened urgently to produce proposals which are non-discriminatory. Meanwhile all marriage applications should be assessed by specialist teams of caseworkers. (Paragraph 326)
70.The lack of mutual confidence between front-line staff and Immigration Judges is very worrying. As a first step, each side must learn more about the other. We particularly encourage Immigration Judges to visit entry clearance posts, and recommend that all ECOs and IND caseworkers visit the AIT as part of their initial training. (Paragraph 335)
71.If these results of the National Audit Office analysis of reasons why entry clearance decisions are overturned on appeal are repeated throughout the entry clearance operation, they suggest that thousands of immigration refusals being allowed on appeal might be better dealt with at an earlier (and cheaper) stage in the process. (Paragraph 336)
72.In over half of entry clearance appeals, the outcome appears to be not so much a judgment on the original decision as a completely new decision reached on the basis of different evidence. (Paragraph 338)
73.Introducing a "minded to refuse" stage into the application process both overseas and in the UK might dramatically reduce the number of non-asylum appeals going to the AIT, by allowing applicants to present further evidence to the original decision-maker rather than to an Immigration Judge. (Paragraph 341)
74.In a further one fifth of entry clearance appeals, it appears that the judge substituted his or her interpretation of the facts for that of the ECO. This can be a particular problem in the case of forgeries. We share the view that staff in posts are in a better position than the AIT to make judgments on forged documents, particularly if supported by specialist teams and appropriate equipment. (Paragraph 343)
75.If the decisions of ECOs and IND caseworkers are to withstand appeal, their refusal notices must show clearly and fully the reasons for the decision and the evidence on which the decision is based. This requires good training, involving lawyers to emphasise the legal standards required, and also good management. Managers must be more active in reviewing refusal decisions so that those which are not sufficiently substantiated can be either strengthened or conceded before any appeal. Managers should also look closely at the reasons why any refusal is overturned by the AIT and discuss each refusal with the caseworker to see what lessons can be learnt and disseminated more generally. (Paragraph 346)
76.We believe that the introduction of a "minded to refuse" stage, coupled with more robust internal reviews of refusals, should largely eliminate any real justification for the introduction of new evidence at (or just before) appeal in the great majority of cases. This would improve confidence in the appeals service throughout the immigration system. (Paragraph 347)
77.We recommend that the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs work with the AIT to develop a pilot exercise in the near future to assess the potential benefits of holding entry clearance appeals in major source countries abroad. (Paragraph 348)
78.The AIT should introduce Case Management Reviews in non-asylum appeals as a matter of priority. These should help to prevent delays and adjournments in court and may even result in weak cases being dropped. (Paragraph 350)
79.The absence of electronic systems for notification of appeals and for subsequent communication about appeals undermines the efficiency of the appeals system. The requirement to send huge bundles of papers, which may play little or no part in the subsequent hearing, is a drain on staff time and resources. The implementation of electronic communications systems must be given a high priority. (Paragraph 353)
80.We support the AIT review report's conclusions on the amount and relevance of evidence and also call for an urgent review of whether there is any need for original papers to be available to the AIT. It may be suggested that this is necessary in cases where forgery has been alleged. However we have seen no evidence that the AIT has access to the necessary expertise to verify documents in entry clearance appeal cases. (Paragraph 355)
81.We were disappointed to find that the AIT does not provide the simple one-tier system that the Government set out to establish. For the reasons cited in this report, we do not have confidence that the AIT as it currently operates could satisfactorily fulfil that role. But the aim of a genuinely single-stage appeal system which effectively reviews first-instance decisions in one hearing and which is able to take into account human rights considerations must remain the right one. We urge the Government to keep the possibility of such a system under constant review. (Paragraph 361)
82.The Government must ensure that Home Office Presenting Officers (HOPOS) attend every appeal that the IND or UKvisas wishes to defend. (Paragraph 364)
83.We are concerned that the Committee was given a misleading impression of the quality of representation in these sensitive cases of great public concern. (Paragraph 366)
84.It is hard to see how HOPOS can provide a robust defence if they have neither a full understanding of immigration and asylum law and practice nor practical advocacy skills, and might not stay in the job for long enough to build up these attributes. If the Government is serious about defending appeals, the quality and skills of HOPOS must be improved. They should be required to meet at least the same standards as appellants' representatives. (Paragraph 367)
85.We believe that it is essential that the work of HOPOs is organised so that they have enough time to prepare for appeals and can discuss cases with the ECO or IND caseworker wherever the basis of a decision may be unclear or clearly open to challenge. (Paragraph 371)
86. HOPOs should also be given the power to concede cases which they consider un-winnable. This would be another way in which court time could be saved. (Paragraph 373)
87.To increase mutual understanding, we recommend that the current programme of HOPO attachments to posts overseas is extended to allow every HOPO to see at first hand how both ECOs and IND caseworkers work and to share their own knowledge and experience. (Paragraph 375)
88.We were not in a position to determine the degree to which the quality of representation in immigration appeals has improved since regulation was introduced, but we suggest that one of the ways the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner could do this is through spot checks on how representatives are performing in the AIT. (Paragraph 377)
89.Legal aid changes have not resulted in fewer appeals, and any savings may be offset by the disadvantages of having unrepresented appellants. The Government must investigate other ways of discouraging unmeritorious appeals whilst encouraging those with merit. (Paragraph 380)
90.Wherever possible, cases must not be listed for hearing until the bundle of documents has arrived. To provide a disincentive for delay, posts should be required to pay the costs resulting from avoidable delay. There would still need to be an absolute time limit in all cases, beyond which cases would have to be listed, with the Home Office presenting the case as best it can. (Paragraph 384)
91.Although the main causes of the current backlog of immigration appeals were the change in the way appeals are lodged and the underestimate of the number of appeals still waiting to come into the system, the resulting problems indicate that the appeals system is quite unable to cope with a surge in demand. This is exacerbated by lack of communication which allows problems to develop in one area which then have an unfortunate effect elsewhere. (Paragraph 390)
92.We recommend that a permanent group comprising representatives from the AIT, Immigration Judges, HOPOS, appellants' representatives and officials from UKvisas, the IND and the Department for Constitutional Affairs should be established to oversee the operation of the appeals system as a whole, to allow problems to be aired as soon as they develop and to assess solutions in terms of their impact across the system. (Paragraph 392)
93.There is a danger that removing appeal rights will result in dissatisfied applicants seeking judicial review instead. To reduce the likelihood of this, the Government must be in a position to show that initial decisions are high quality and that there is an effective avenue of internal review, before further appeal rights are removed. (Paragraph 397)
94.There is little doubt that those who are involved with the appeals process are working hard and diligently, often under trying circumstances. But in this chapter we have examined the evidential basis of decisions taken in the AIT, the quality of Home Office representation and the clear lack of mutual confidence between decision-makers in the IND and UKvisas and the AIT. Taken together we do not feel that the appeals process as it currently operates provides a sound basis for this vital part of the immigration system. (Paragraph 398)
Enforcing the controls
95.At present the lack of removals is felt to undermine the efforts made by thousands of people to ensure that the right people are allowed to enter or stay in the UK. (Paragraph 402)
96.Unless we make the heroic assumption that all those who are refused but not removed do leave the country of their own volition, it is clear that the current rate of removal is not even keeping up with the increase in the number of those not entitled to remain in the UK. (Paragraph 407)
97.The integrity of the entire immigration system depends on the effective enforcement of the Immigration Rules. Current enforcement efforts are clearly inadequate. The resources made available for enforcement activities should be determined by the scale of enforcement required, rather than the other way around. (Paragraph 411)
98.We regard the inability to identify and track individuals who are in breach of the Immigration Rules as a major weakness in the system. (Paragraph 413)
99.It is difficult to reconcile the removal of vulnerable individuals or those with strong links in the UK with the principle of harm reduction set out by the IND. Whilst continuing action to remove people already living in the UK illegally will of course be necessary—not least to remove those who have entered the UK by clandestine routes—the first priority should be to align the removal system with the decision-making system. (Paragraph 420)
100.We welcome the commitment of the Home Office to act on our predecessors' recommendation that all asylum seekers should receive decisions on their applications or appeals in person. We believe that this approach should be progressively extended, as swiftly as possible, to all immigration decisions, so that failed applicants can be told about the possibility of appeal if available, how to organise their departure and any support available for this, and the consequences of breaching immigration control including the fact that this can be held against them in any subsequent application. (Paragraph 426)
101.It seems entirely sensible that the caseworker making a decision should be able to issue enforcement notices. This would be a natural outcome if cases were allocated to caseworkers who 'owned' them all the way through the system. (Paragraph 427)
102.Continued contact with failed immigration applicants must be improved, whether through their being required to report regularly to a reporting centre or police station, or through electronic monitoring. Reporting or monitoring conditions should however be imposed only for a limited time until the case is concluded by granting leave to remain or by the person leaving the country voluntarily or being removed. (Paragraph 431)
103.The Government must confirm that readmission agreements are being used to facilitate non-asylum as well as asylum removals. (Paragraph 435)
104.Anyone who has had to be forcibly removed from the UK because they did not comply with a notice to leave the country, not just those who have been deported, should be banned from returning to the UK for a set period. The ban could be automatic, or there could be a presumption in favour of a ban or even simply the option of imposing one. The length of this ban or presumption should reflect the degree of abuse. A ban or the possibility of one would act as a disincentive to breach the Immigration Rules, would encourage voluntary departure on receipt of a notice to leave the UK because that would not result in a ban, and might help to address the "revolving door" phenomenon whereby people who have already been removed once or more return and are then removed again. (Paragraph 437)
105.The immigration system already rewards people with a good immigration history, by for instance offering them a fast-track visa application process. The Government should also make people aware of the consequences of illegal immigration, not only through better information for unsuccessful applicants but also through widespread advertisements, including in workplaces, colleges, benefits offices and hospitals. (Paragraph 439)
106.Voluntary returns schemes for those who have not sought asylum should be prominently referred to in refusal letters, with details of whom to contact for further information. (Paragraph 440)
107.Under the system we envisage, failed applicants who promised to leave the UK voluntarily should continue to be allowed to do so, and their departure from the UK monitored. To do so efficiently will require the re-establishment of embarkation controls. (Paragraph 441)
108.We understand that the introduction of e-Borders will effectively mean the reintroduction of embarkation controls. We welcome this development and urge its swift and effective completion. However, the Government must also have a clear strategy for acting on the information collected. Firstly, it must be used in subsequent applications: even scanning the passport so that the database shows the person had left and on time would be immensely valuable to anyone deciding a subsequent application. Secondly, it must be used to identify those who entered the country legitimately but have overstayed their visa without attempting to regularise their position. (Paragraph 448)
109.All information about possible overstayers, whether from database alerts, tip-offs from members of the public or information provided by police, registrars, tax authorities, local authorities, employers or colleges must be followed up with investigation and, if necessary, enforcement action. Data on following up this information must be gathered to measure the IND's effectiveness. (Paragraph 452)
110.The employment of illegal workers should be one of the main targets for action against illegal migrants who are already living illegally in the UK. (Paragraph 453)
111.Tackling tax and national insurance evasion should become a central feature of the drive against the employment of illegal labour, and the tax authorities must make much greater efforts to tackle these in the informal economy. Enforcement work on tax and national insurance should take place in conjunction with all the other legal measures available to tackle abuse in the informal labour market. As well as ensuring that employers complied with their legal obligations, it would reduce the financial advantages of employing illegal workers. (Paragraph 455)
112.We welcome the proposed "right to work" condition for people applying for National Insurance numbers (NINos). We recommend that the Government also consider withdrawing NINos from people who no longer have the right to work in the UK. (Paragraph 467)
113.There should be a single database which clearly shows a person's immigration status and right to work and claim benefits. We note that the Government's National Identity Register is intended to fulfil this function. Employment and access to services could be made conditional on a satisfactory check against such a database. (Paragraph 470)
114.Having considered the arguments for and against, we do not consider that an amnesty would be appropriate or helpful in the current situation. (Paragraph 479)
Customer service
115.We acknowledge the conflicting pressures on the IND and UKvisas, but emphasise that the need to maintain the integrity of the immigration system must be balanced against the need to ensure a high-quality service to the millions of people whom we wish to be able to travel easily to the UK. (Paragraph 481)
116.The calculation of visa fees and in-country fees should be aligned at least in terms of what costs are taken into account and the impact assessment which accompanies them. If the levels of fees are to remain so different, the Government must be able to provide a clear and valid justification. (Paragraph 491)
117.There is an unacceptable level of delay in the IND's immigration casework, which leads to tens of thousands of complaints every year to both the IND itself and Members of Parliament. The IND must address this problem at its source by investing in initial decision-making and instilling a culture which does not allow cases to disappear into 'black holes'. (Paragraph 494)
118.We do not believe it to be appropriate that Members of Parliament have become an integral part of the immigration system upon which even representatives rely to make progress with a case. UKvisas, the IND and the AIT must improve their systems for handling inquiries and complaints so that applicants and representatives do not need to short-circuit the system by going through their MPs. (Paragraph 498)
119.The frustration caused to applicants by being unable to find out the progress on their applications leads to large numbers of complaints, and is unacceptable. The Government should carry out a review of the information given to applicants and their representatives on the progress of their cases, with a view to providing as much information as possible, even to telephone callers. A system which would let all applicants track the progress of their case online would enormously reduce the number of enquiries and complaints. (Paragraph 505)
120.Whilst we welcome the extension of the IND Complaints Audit Committee's role to cover the huge number of "operational complaints", we call for the Government to implement a single immigration complaints system, covering both the IND and UKvisas, with a variety of channels of complaint and a variety of methods for dealing with those complaints, ranging from informal resolution to intensive investigation. We particularly emphasise the need for the organisation and individuals within it to learn from substantiated complaints. (Paragraph 515)
Deportation of foreign national prisoners
121.We endorse the Government's moves to reduce the foreign national prisoner population at source through tackling drug trafficking in partnership with other countries. Given the difficulties with repatriation of prisoners, the early removals scheme should be given priority and re-documentation efforts redoubled. (Paragraph 521)
122.Although a criminal court can recommend deportation when it is sentencing a foreign national, the decision to deport always rests with the Home Office regardless of whether or not there is a court recommendation. We do not see the benefit of court recommendations for deportation, and recommend that they should be abolished. All deportations should be considered by the Home Office solely on the grounds of whether deportation is conducive to the public good. (Paragraph 532)
123.We support the proposal to create a presumption in favour of deportation of foreign nationals who are serious criminals. In practice there will be those for whom deportation is inappropriate, for example those whose offences may only just cross the threshold of seriousness but who have lived otherwise law-abiding lives in this country for a long time and who have an established family in the United Kingdom. But the principle should be established that in all such cases the offender should have to make their case as to why they should not be deported. (Paragraph 535)
Lessons to be learnt
124.We are very glad to see that the IND is being reviewed in its wider Home Office context, and emphasise the need for the review to take into account the recommendations of this report. (Paragraph 538)
125.We believe that the failures of management seen in the IND's handling of foreign national prisoners, when senior management failed to make it clear upon whom and at what level the responsibility lay for identifying and acting upon problems as they arose, highlight a problem that may exist in many parts of the organisation. The failure of the enforcement and removal operation to meet the needs of an effective immigration system, the failure to develop a complaints system capable of improving the quality of customer service and the absence of effective feedback mechanisms from AIT decisions to ECOs are all examples of hard work being undermined by a failure to take responsibility for the performance of the system as a whole. (Paragraph 541)
126.The biggest single management challenge for the immigration authorities is to create clear lines of responsibility and accountability and to establish a culture at each level where staff are required to feel a responsibility for the overall performance of the system as well as for their own tasks. Without such a profound cultural change, individual targets or performance measures are unlikely to produce the required results. (Paragraph 543)
127.Fragmentation and lack of communication is a systemic problem not just within the IND but within the entire immigration system which ought, ideally, to work as a whole. It is not only computer databases which should be encouraged to talk to each other but people, at all levels in all the immigration authorities. (Paragraph 548)
128.The various challenges of working across Government provide one incentive for having a Cabinet Committee which can take overall responsibilitiesfor the whole of the Government's efforts to run an effective immigration system. The evidence received in our inquiry on the need for migrant labour, and the economic benefits and drawbacks as well as the social advantages and stresses of migration, also highlighted the disadvantages accruing from the absence of any place within Government with overall responsibility for weighing up these factors—which are sometimes in tension with each other—and for determining the overall migration strategy for the UK. It is generally believed that the Home Office exercises this function but in our view it is not in a position do so effectively. We therefore recommend that a Cabinet Committee with representatives from all relevant Departments should be established with overall responsibility for all aspects of immigration policy. (Paragraph 561)
129.There is a serious problem with the way immigration statistics are compiled, presented and used to evaluate and improve performance. The Government must conduct or commission a thorough investigation, based on the ongoing work of the review of immigration statistics, to determine which statistics are needed to produce a meaningful picture of the effectiveness of the immigration system as a whole. The IND's statistics must be not only up-to-date and accurate but also capable of providing information about whether targets are being met and about how people move from one stage of immigration control to another. (Paragraph 570)
130.We have seen four different ways in which targets have had unintended impacts on other parts of the immigration system: (1) major political targets on asylum meant other work may have been sidelined or even deliberately manipulated; (2) targets were set for only one part of a system without consideration of the effect elsewhere; (3) targets on speed had a negative impact on quality; and (4) targets were being met without having any impact on the underlying objective. (Paragraph 572)
131.There is no doubt that the achievement of successive asylum targets has been a notable success of the IND, and the criticism we make in this report should not detract from that. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion, however, that the existence of and single-minded focus on the asylum target contributed to an environment in which the foreign prisoner problem was not recognised early enough. (Paragraph 579)
132.The setting of individual targets must take into account their likely effect on the performance of the organisation as a whole. (Paragraph 584)
133.As we have emphasised throughout the report, targets which focus only on speed must be balanced with those which emphasise quality. (Paragraph 587)
134.Written instructions, targets and performance indicators are certainly important but they must be very carefully set and monitored so that they deal with real issues of concern over immigration and do not have negative impacts on other parts of the system. (Paragraph 589)
135.Caseworkers rely heavily on guidance throughout the immigration system, and yet there is such a mass of documents in so many different series that it is very difficult for them to find the correct, up-to-date and most authoritative information. All immigration guidance must be consistent and coherent across the various relevant authorities, and each section must always have a clear owner at a senior level who has approved it and checked it with owners of other sections. (Paragraph 593)
136.Given the stream of reports and recommendations relating to immigration which appear every year, a clear method for keeping track of the Government's progress in responding to each of them is essential. Annual checklists should be published showing what progress has been made across Government on recommendations from independent monitors, audit committees, the National Audit Office, Select Committees and other official reports. (Paragraph 598)
137.We recommend that the Government establish an Independent Immigration Inspectorate with oversight of every stage of immigration control: overseas, at the border, in-country, enforcement (including detention) and appeals. It should be looking for high-quality decisions, active management, clear lines of responsibility and of reporting, easy communication within and across authorities, meaningful statistics, effective and non-distorting targets, excellent customer service and promotion of good race relations. The Inspectorate must be independent, properly resourced and with the authority to make recommendations to which the Government has to respond. (Paragraph 603)
138.In our report we have identified a number of structural and operational failures, ranging from the local to the systemic, in the Government's overall response to the challenges posed by the worldwide phenomenon of increased migration, both legal and illegal. In our view it is a failure of successive Governments that these flaws have been allowed to persist, and their continued existence has exacerbated the problems the Government now faces. But we have also identified measures which the Government should take to address these failures. If the Government adopts these suggestions and builds on some undoubted areas of good practice and innovations—and uses properly the skills and experience of dedicated staff throughout the existing immigration system—many of the problems may be overcome. (Paragraph 604)
139.There is little doubt that the great majority of those who are in employed in the immigration system are working hard and diligently, often under trying circumstances. But the biggest single management challenge for the IND is to create clear lines of responsibility and accountability and to establish a culture at each level where staff are required to feel a responsibility for the overall performance of the system as well as for their own tasks in it. Without such a profound cultural change, individual measures are unlikely to produce the required results. (Paragraph 605)
140.There is little doubt that the great majority of those who are in employed in the immigration system are working hard and diligently, often under trying circumstances. But the biggest single management challenge for the immigration authorities is to create clear lines of responsibility and accountability and to establish a culture at each level where staff are required to feel a responsibility for the overall performance of the system as well as for their own tasks in it. Without such a profound cultural change, individual measures are unlikely to produce the required results. (Paragraph 605)

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