14. Memorandum submitted by the Devon
and Cornwall Refugee Support Council
1. Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support Council
is an OISC level 1 charity working with Asylum Seekers and Refugees
primarily in the role of advice and advocacy.
We see on average 45 clients per day, four days
per week. We have six paid staff, 40 volunteers, and average three
caseworkers seeing clients during drop in hours.
We are exceedingly stretched, trying to compensate
for the lack of provision in many different areas for asylum seekers
and refugees. We will detail here our concerns relating to the
"inquiry topics" (as set out by the committee to inquire
into immigration control) by paragraph, highlighting where there
are shortfalls against the stated aims of the IND in italics.
All concerns raised in this submission will relate to asylum and
refugee matters. The concerns raised and allegations made are
unqualified by supporting evidence, and as such are anecdotal
evidence only. However, DCRSC will be happy to substantiate any
of these points with case-studies on request.
2. Institutional structures and coordination
There is poor communication between
the main government institutions concerned with asylum; NASS,
IND and the AIT; NASS, and within NASS the accommodation contractors,
disperse asylum seekers from one address to another with great
frequency. Essential correspondence to asylum seekers is often
missed because NASS does not update other government bodies with
new addresses. The onus is on the asylum seeker to update IND
and AIT. In reality this means that nearly all this work must
be done by the voluntary sector and solicitors.
NASS makes numerous errors in discontinuing
support prematurely or accidentally and not sending out tickets
for court hearings. NASS have a different opinion on when an appeal
is submitted "Out of Time" than the courts dothat
is to say that when the courts decide a submission has been made
in time, NASS can decide otherwise and cut support to someone
whose case is legitimately ongoing. (Undermining Aim 2Whilst
asylum seekers are not citizens, they make up communities with
citizens and where they are not supported due to error an unfair
burden falls to the citizens of their community)
There are frequent problems with
ARC payments to asylum seekers, often asylum seekers are for weeks
on end without money through no fault of their own.
The IND enquiry bureau has, until
perhaps very recently, been as good as inoperative, responding
to every enquiry with an instruction to send in a written request,
which would never be dealt with; for example many asylum seekers
or people with limited leave to remain are kept waiting for a
matter of years, sometimes many years, for their applications
to be processed. (Undermining Aim 1Individuals and Communities
have no confidence in the IND to administrate, without which opportunities
are lost. Undermining Aim 3not delivering department responsibilities
effectively or efficiently)
IND lose a great deal of important
documentation, particularly documents confiscated when claims
for asylum are made. (Undermining Aim 1Individuals and
Communities have no confidence in the IND to administrate, without
which opportunities are lost. Undermining Aim 3not delivering
department responsibilities effectively or efficiently)
Identity Documents (replacement status
letters, resident permit cards and Travel Documents) can be extremely
hard to procure either because of the aforementioned administrative
break down at IND in the case of status letters and permit cards,
or prohibitive expense in the case of Travel Documents for those
with limited leave to remain. This leads to many people with status
being unable to work and dependent on state benefits for lack
of documentation required by the Home Office's own guidelines
on preventing illegal working. (Undermining Aim 6 of the Home
Office, creating social exclusion, creating public expense in
the form of unnecessary dependence on benefits)
All correspondence from IND and AIT
are in English only.
3. Quality of initial decisions (both
entry clearance and after-entry). Home Office decisions on
asylum cases are made on the information recorded in the Statement
of Evidence Form, made during an initial interview. Those interviewing
have no expertise or knowledge about the countries from which
the interviewee is escaping (cultural or political), and base
decisions on whether the asylum seeker has knowledge of sometimes
quite arbitrary and obscure questions; for example, to ascertain
whether someone is, as they may claim, a Christian, ask how many
books there are in the Old Testament. Commonly, asylum seekers
are discredited because the Interviewer cannot identify nationality
or ethnicity by this manner of questioning. A country expert could
make informed and more insightful decisions on these matters.
Interpretation is poorthis we know from
anecdotal evidence; some of our clients whose English is reasonably
good but choose to speak in their own language find that the interpreter
has a lower ability than they do to translate. They are then put
in the uncomfortable position of having to disengage the interpreter,
something which does not happen for a number of reasons; interviewees
may not feel they have the authority to do so, feel that it would
be impolite, are disoriented, are often recently traumatised etc . . .
The Statement of Evidence Form is handwritten
by the interviewer and sometimes illegible. This can create difficulty
when appealing Home Office decisions.
In France, OFPRA use country specialists when
interviewing, so ensuring there is a reasonable knowledge and
background of a claimant's country when assessing an initial claim
should not be impracticable in the UK.
In reality we know that the Home Office has
no interest in ensuring good decision making with regards to asylum.
It is common knowledge that their aim is to keep numbers to a
minimum and refuse as many people as possible, with 96% refused
at initial interview.
(Undermining Aim 6 of the Home Office, in
that the programmes for dealing with those seeking refuge and
asylum are not fair.)
4. Particular Areas of Policy. DCRSC
finds that the Home Office legislates policies that sound tough,
but in reality create more problems and public expense than they
Section 9 is an ugly example of this.
Barnardos have made a report regarding how the ineffectiveness
of this policy, as well as the suffering it has caused during
its pilot operation.
Section 55 was another example in
the same vein, achieving nothing, but proving in court to be inhumane.
Section 4 support relies on a voucher
system, the inadequacies of which have already been acknowledged
by the Home Office.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to
work, undermining their self-worth, and reinforcing a negative
public perception that asylum seekers are "spongers."
DCRSC has grave concerns about destitute
refused asylum seekers, catering for their humanitarian needs
falls on the voluntary sector which does not have the resources
DCRSC does not believe it is safe
to remove failed asylum seekers, this is due to the fact that
we have no confidence in the Home Office or the AIT to properly
identify those whose lives are at risk on return to their Home
Countries due to poor initial Home Office decision making, and
a rushed and under resourced appeals processrefer to paragraph
DCRSC also has grave concerns about
the way in which the N case is implemented, that those people
with medical needs that are such that they would shortly die without
continuing care, are not granted leave to remain on human rights
grounds. DCRSC finds the "Human Rights Threshold" to
be set too high, as to make the Human Rights Act almost meaningless.
DCRSC does not have the necessary
time and resources to give these matters the qualification that
they deserve, but would refer the Inquiry to national charities
with regard to them.
(The inhumane thread running through all
these policies undermines all of the IND's purposes and aims.)
5. Appeals and Judicial Review. Five
days is not long enough for someone to submit an application for
reconsideration to the AIT. Solicitors do not have sufficient
time to do good work. By the time a solicitor has a response from
a barrister as to whether there are merits, it is too late for
an asylum seeker to lodge their own appeal in time. Often, determinations
on reconsideration applications appear to be "cut and paste"
from a selection of stock judgements. It is rare that any of these
determinations allude to any specific argument or fact that demonstrates
that a judge has actually read the grounds of appeal. DCRSC prepared
a paper for Alison Seabeck MP highlighting our concerns regarding
the lack of legal provision, particularly cuts to legal aid.
6. Reporting, investigating and punishing
immigration offenders/Race equality issues. DCRSC does not
believe that Immigration Control should be exempt from the Race
Relations Act. Refugee clients and asylum seekers with current
claims are often arrested and detained with a view to deportation,
following phone calls with racist motivations from members of
the public to the Police. DCRSC would like to request that the
Inquiry sets out to compare how many BME immigrants, particularly
those already granted asylum, are falsely arrested and detained
by Immigration on suspicion of having no immigration status and
later released, with, for example, white Americans or Australians
whose work visas have expired. (Undermining Aim 1a "just
and tolerant society" Undermining Aim 2"enhance
social cohesion and enjoy their home and public spaces peacefully"
Undermining Home Office Aim 6the interests of social inclusion.)
7. Immigration statistics. DCRSC
requests that the Inquiry compares the numbers of appeals granted
at court, with the number of asylum cases granted CLR. As those
granted CLR are deemed to have better than a 50% chance of success,
more than 50% of asylum appeals engaging representation should
win at appeal stage. DCRSC suspects that this is not the case.
2 December 2005