The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012) - Home Affairs Committee Contents


6  Appeals and tribunals

Key figures
  • 64% of asylum hearings were won by the Agency and 27% were lost in Q4 2011
  • 41% of family visit visa hearings were won by the Agency and 32% were lost in Q4 2011
  • 42% of managed migration cases were won by the Agency but 44% were lost in Q4 2011
  • 36% of entry clearance cases were won and lost by the Agency in Q4 2011
  • 62% of case bundles were delivered on time by the Agency in 2011/12
  • 84% of tribunal hearings had an Agency representative present in Q4 2011
  • 13% decrease in appeal volume from Q3 2011 - Q4 2011

Background

55. The Agency is working to improve its performance in asylum and immigration appeals and it has set up an Appeals Improvement Plan to focus its efforts.

Appeal outcomes for immigration and asylum

56. The outcome of First Tier immigration and asylum tribunals in Q4 2011 can be seen from the chart below.


Figure 8: outcome of appeal decisions in Q4 2011

57. The Agency:

  • won 64% of asylum hearings and lost 27%;
  • won 41% of family visit visa cases and lost 32%;
  • won 42% of managed migration cases, but lost 44%; and
  • won 36% of entry clearance cases and lost the same amount.

58. The Agency is therefore winning the majority of asylum and family visit visa hearings but losing the majority of managed migration cases. It is breaking equal on entry clearance cases.

59. When the Agency's win rate is compared to its win rate in the first quarter of last year we can see that it has not made much progress in increasing the number of cases it is winning at appeal.


Figure 9: % of appeal cases dismissed in UKBA's favour in Q1 and Q4 2011-2012

  • The number of asylum and entry clearance wins remain the same at 64% and 36% respectively;
  • Managed migration wins improved by 1%;
  • Family visit visa wins decreased by 6%.

60. The Agency's win rate in appeal cases is therefore effectively static, improving or declining by a couple of percentage points but not making any significant progress. It is difficult to connect this to Rob Whiteman's statement in his written evidence that 'appeals performance has improved'.[42] We can see no real improvement whatsoever in appeals outcomes to date. We will monitor the Agency's progress against its Appeals Improvement Plan targets.

Progress against Appeals Improvement Plan

61. The Agency has set itself four targets for improving its performance at appeals. These cover evidence, representation at appeal hearings, increasing the number of appeals the Agency wins and reducing the volume of appeals.

TARGET 1: 90% OF BUNDLES TO BE RECEIVED AT THE IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM COURT TRIBUNAL BY THE DATE PRESCRIBED BY HM COURTS AND TRIBUNAL SERVICE

62. In 2011/12, 62% of trial bundles (prepared evidence) were delivered by the prescribed date. This was an improvement on the Agency's performance in 2010/11 where only 49% were received by the prescribed date. The Agency says it expects to improve further in the next 12 months as it introduces electronic bundles for asylum cases and make changes to how bundles are managed overseas. The current figure is still unacceptably low and we look forward to seeing an improvement when the Agency moves to electronic management of all case files.[43]

TARGET 2: UK BORDER AGENCY TO REPRESENT 90% OF APPEALS

63. The Border Agency has improved its rate of representation at Appeal hearings across the board, sending a representative to 84% of hearings overall, but this is still short of its 90% representation target. The Agency was represented at:

  • 83% of all First Tier hearings
  • 100% of Deportation hearings
  • 100% of Upper Tier hearings
  • 94% of First Tier asylum hearings[44]

64. We welcome the 100% representation rate in deportation and Upper Tier hearings but note that overall representation rates have fluctuated between the low and mid-80% range for the majority of 2011/12. [45] We recommend that the Agency be represented at 100% rather than 90% of all tribunal hearings. As we have said previously it is unacceptable for the Agency not to appear in court to defend its decision, a no-show on their part may waste court time and taxpayers' money.[46] If the Agency is going to withdraw its objection in a particular case it should do so much earlier in order to:

  • reduce the uncertainty and pressure on appellants as well as
  • reducing the costs on the public purse and
  • avoiding additional pressure on the tribunal system.

TARGET 3: UK BORDER AGENCY TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF APPEALS IT WINS

65. The Agency's overall win rate for the year 2011/12 has been only 44%, which is unacceptably low. Its performance in Q4 2011 is especially disappointing when compared to its performance in Q1 2011 (see figure 9 above) as it has barely improved.

66. The Agency's initiatives to improve its win rate as part of the Appeals Performance Improvement Plan should have started to take effect by now if it were being addressed with vigour.[47] New legislation to restrict the admissibility of new evidence in all Points Based System appeals appears to have had no impact on appeal outcomes. The Agency's poor results in appeals must therefore be due to poor initial decision making or inadequate legal representation. The Agency has told us that it is currently analysing appeal decisions to determine why cases are lost and to identify areas where improvements can be made through staff training. The Agency says it will step up its activities within the next six months.[48] Whilst we welcome this commitment we note with concern its slow progress to date and we hope that the next quarter's results will show a substantial improvement in performance.

TARGET 4: REDUCE APPEAL VOLUMES

67. The Agency also aims to reduce the number of appeals lodged. There were 28,111 appeals lodged in Q4 2011, a decrease of 13% on the previous quarter.[49] We are concerned that the government is aiming to reduce the volume of appeals through closing off the most widely-used route of appeal, Family Visit Visas. These accounted for 12,000 of the appeals lodged in this category in Q4 2011, 3,500 more than the second largest category of Managed Migration Appeals and 40% of the overall total. A poor performance in appeals should instigate a drive to improve initial casework decisions and guidance for applicants. Closing off a route of appeal, by preventing appeals against Family Visit Visa decisions, is not an acceptable way in which to reduce the number of appeals.[50] The aim must be to give clear and speedy clearance to those whose application is genuine and to give a clear and speedy rejection to those whose application is being refused.

68. There are a number of simple changes the Agency could make to reduce the volume of appeals it handles. Firstly the refusal notices they issue should set out in clear bullet points why the application has been rejected. If, for example, it is due to missing documentation the applicant should be asked to provide this to the Agency as part of the same application. It should then be reviewed within an acceptable timescale. This could reduce both the time it would take for the applicant to get a decision and the resources spent on appeals. Secondly, we understand that the Agency does not specify all the documentation it requires to grant an application. For example they ask for 'proof of funds' instead of bank statements. We recommend that the Agency list specific documents that they require in order to grant an application. This will ensure that the application process is as clear as possible and should reduce the amount of verification work and appeals work that has to be done at a later stage.

69. The best way to communicate with applicants is through a clear website that works properly and sets out what is expected from the applicant at each stage of the process. The Agency's website is frequently inaccessible as vital pages do not download. The Agency needs to address the problems people are encountering with its website immediately.


42   Ev 48 Back

43   Ev 49 Back

44   Ev 56 and Ev 42 Back

45   Ev 56 and Ev 42 Back

46   Home Affairs Committee, Twenty-first Report of Session 2010-12, The Work of the UK Border Agency, August to December 2011, HC 1722, para 51 Back

47   Ev 49 Back

48   Ev 49 Back

49   Ministry of Justice, Quarterly Tribunals statistics, 1 July-30 September 2011, p6 and Ev 49 Back

50   Ev 49 Back


 
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Prepared 23 July 2012