Home Affairs Committee

Reporting Regime Submission

Who we are

Bristol Signing Support

1. We formed in 2011 in response to a documented need by Bristol Refugee Rights for a more formal process to support migrants who are required to sign at the police station as part of their conditions for “Temporary Admission”, but also with a view to challenge the reporting (or signing) conditions which often appeared arbitrary, unfair and a cause of great stress, and in some cases illness.

2. Since we have operated we have supported 80 migrants with their signing. The vast majority of these are asylum seekers.


3. As one of the conditions of “Temporary admission” (Paragraph 21 of Schedule 2 of the 1971 Immigration Act) many asylum seekers (and other foreign nationals432) are required to report to an immigration office, or officer on a regular basis.

4. According to the UK Border Force manual: “This will apply where there is some doubt as to whether the person will comply with the restrictions as to place of residence imposed on him”.433

5. On the notification434 of those granted “Temporary Admission” it is stated that they are “liable to detention”. One of the times they can be detained is when they report to UKBA.

6. In our view there often seems to be a presumption that people will not comply.

7. We would go further and say that when there is not any doubt that a individual will continue to comply and they are still required to sign.

8. Of our membership, there are very few of whom it could be said that “they will not comply with the restrictions as to place of residence imposed on him”435.

9. The frequency of the reporting varies in our experience between weekly and quarterly. At present we support 25 people to sign weekly, 2 fortnightly, 24 people to sign monthly, 1 bimonthly and 2 to sign quarterly.

10. In the case of Bristol, people have to sign at Trinity Road Police Station. On the list of reporting centres contained on the UKBA website only those premises which are exclusively occupied by UKBA are listed, so we are currently unsure how many police stations are used as reporting centres.

11. While we are using Bristol as a case study, and there are specific issues around the use of a police station as a reporting centre, much of what we say about the experiences of those signing in Bristol can be applied across the country, including those places which asre used solely by UKBA.

Case Studies

12. Case Study A: A (Benin) woman was required to sign even before she had her substantive inquiry.

13. We submit that someone at the beginning of a claim is a low flight risk as they believe their case will be positively resolved and they know that non-compliance will have a bearing on their case.

14. Case Study B: A Sri Lankan member has been waiting 3 years for an answer to his initial asylum claim.

15. We submit that someone in this or a similar position is a low flight risk as 1) they believe their case will be positively resolved and that non-compliance will have a bearing on their case and 2) that they are dependent on NASS to meet their basic needs.

16. Case Study C: An East African man who signs regularly. He was detained and held in detention for 2 months. This was a very traumatic experience for somebody already experiencing high anxiety and other mental health issues. He was released from detention after his church fundraised to provide him with adequate legal support. He is dependent on his church for accommodation. He currently is awaiting an outcome on his current asylum case. Signing monthly causes sleeplessness and anxiety in the week leading up to signing and is retraumatising to him.

17. Case Study D: A 54 year old woman who is disabled. She has to sign monthly. She is unable to walk the 4 miles round trip to sign and so has to use 4 of her 36 a week to pay for the bus. She experiences increased sleeplessness and higher stress levels in the days before signing each month. She is on various medications as a result. She is in NASS accommodation and is totally dependent on NASS for any economic support.

18. We submit that the people in Case Study C and D and others in similar positions are a low flight risk as 1) they are dependent on the local community or NASS for meeting their very basic needs and 2) they believe their case will be positively resolved and that non-compliance will have a bearing on their case.

19. Case Study E: An Iranian man whose case and appeals have been refused and has been signing reliably every month for 2 years since this refusal. There are currently no returns to Iran.

20. We submit that people in this or similar situations should not be required to sign indefinitely. Furthermore they are a low flight risk as legally they should not be detained. If there is a change in advice about country of origin then the decision around signing conditions could be revisited at that point.

Low Flight Risk

21. Drawing upon the various case studies there are a variety of reasons to suggest that many people who sign are a very low flight risk.

22. Flight risk as stated in the Border Force Manual is the only stated justification for the requirement for signing.

23. It appears unclear what UKBA’s logic is for requiering people outlined in the Case studies, and others in similar situations, to sign . It appears that the assessment of doubt is being applied injudiciously.

24. This is a concern that we ask members of the committee to put to the officials. We are concerned that further guidance not in the public domain is being given to case officers, that does not relate to individual circumstances but rather that is applied as blanket policy.

Experiences of Signing

25. The Case Studies outline in brief the severe impacts of signing on people.

26. Signing is a stressful or demeaning exercise for many if not all who are required to do so. Those who find it most stressful are those with physical and mental illness. Furthermore, they also fall in to the category of being lowest flight risk due to total dependency on NASS or charities to meet their basic needs.

27. The impact on peoples mental and physical health should be considered when assessing whether and how frequent they have to sign.

Specific issues around using a police station as a reporting centre

28. Many asylum seekers express to us their feeling of stigmatisation and criminalisation at having to go to a police station. One member said about having to sign at the police station “it makes me feel guilty even though I am innocent.”

29. We submit that the use of facilities for people charged with criminal offenses is inappropriate for those fleeing persecution and conflict.

Length of signing

30. The UKBA has estimated that a fifth of the outstanding “Legacy” cases of pre-2007 asylum claims “cannot currently be resolved as there are external factors which prevent the Agency from either removing the applicants or allowing them to stay in the UK”.

31. We are members of the committee to ask how many people in this situation are requiered to sign and for how long they have been signing. We submit that people should not be required to sign indefinitely.

Comparing the Reporting Regime with the criminal bail regimes

32. When someone is arrested for a criminal offence, unless there is a particular reason436 to think they will abscond, their bail is “unconditional”; there are no restrictions. They do not have to report to the police station before or after any court hearing, or further interviews. The Crown Prosecution Service says “Recommended bail conditions and the reasons for such conditions should be specific and justifiable”437. Even those who are “repeat offenders” are given unconditional bail if they have a good record of attending court. They are assumed to be trustworthy unless they show otherwise.

33. Using this logic, people who have to sign should also be assumed be to trusted and of good character unless demonstrated otherwise. Additionally, it must be taken in to consideration that the vast majority of asylum seekers have committed no criminal offence.

Bristol Signing Support

April 2013

432 While we have concerns about non-asylum seeking foreign nationals who have to report to UKBA we will restrict our onservations to those with the asylum seekers.

433 Paragraph 7, page 8.

434 Form “IS96”.

435 Paragraph 7, page 8.

436 Severity of offence also comes into play.

Prepared 11th October 2013