Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by British Red Cross (ASY 72)

Executive Summary

The British Red Cross (BRC) sees serious problems with the asylum system as it stands. Vulnerable people fleeing conflict and oppression are unable to claim their rights as refugees and are left distressed and destitute. We often find ourselves as the final port of call across the UK for these desperate people in crisis seeking the basic essentials of life, such as food and clothes.

The British Red Cross wants to see a fair, effective and efficient asylum system that treats people with respect and dignity and upholds the UK’s responsibilities to provide safety for refugees. We believe this commonly shared goal is some way off.

The removal of uncertainty, confusion and errors in asylum processes would hugely improve people’s humanitarian situation.

Specifically we call on the government to address: widespread problems with the administration of section 4 support, the massive backlog of applications for asylum especially within the former Case Assurance and Audit Unit (now OLCU), the poorly administered transition from asylum benefits to mainstream benefits and the associated problems of widespread destitution for people both within and outside the asylum system.

The management of the UK asylum system must be brought into line with basic standards of good governance and thereby the government could hugely reduce vulnerability and especially destitution amongst some of the most at-risk people in the UK.

Many of these people are already legally entitled to these services and standards, some could be and those left are still entitled to basic humanitarian protection. This is a fundamental principle of the Red Cross Red Crescent movement whether we encounter people in Darfur or Derby.

We call on the government to treat those who come to our shores seeking sanctuary as people first and foremost and address the very real failings in the asylum system which leaves 56% of our clients without state assistance even though they are entitled to it.

Key Recommendations

  • The British Red Cross believes that the scale of the UKBA backlogs is extremely grave and needs extra resource to be addressed.
  • The Committee should consider the policy recommendations of the recent British Red Cross roundtable (below) to address the lack of an ethos of accountability at UKBA..
  • Both UKBA and DWP must address the structural issues involved in the “move on” period and transition as a matter of priority.
  • We believe that Section 4 should be abolished and all asylum seekers bought on to cash support through Section 95 until they have left the country or have been granted status.
  • The British Red Cross also believes that the level of Asylum Support Rates should be uprated in line with other benefits
  • UKBA must ensure that all “fresh submissions” are decided within the relevant 5/2 days timeframe in line with the recent Kanyemba judgement. 5 days should be an absolute maximum for an assessment according to the “fresh submission” test.
  • Where representations are found to meet the test for “fresh submissions” quality decision making from the UKBA on the asylum application itself must be ensured despite a live S. 4 claim.
  • We maintain that all support should be in cash and not in the form of a parallel currency.
  • The British Red Cross encourages the Committee to press the government to allow asylum seekers the right to work in the UK if their claim takes over 6 months through no fault of their own.
  • Good quality legal advice should also be provided as soon as possible in the asylum process.

The British Red Cross thanks the Committee for the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry.

Introduction

The British Red Cross welcomes the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into asylum and the opportunity to respond to it.

Our response will focus on issues in which the British Red Cross has the most experience of in light of our work in supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

The British Red Cross (BRC) operates in 48 towns and cities across the whole of the United Kingdom working with destitute asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. Consequently, we often find ourselves as the final port of call across the UK for these desperate people in crisis seeking the basic essentials of life such as food and clothes.

In 2012 BRC Refugee Services supported 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers, with some 6,000 being destitute with no access to support or the right to work. We spend £3 million of funds on this work each year. We do this as part of our humanitarian mission to help individuals who are in a crisis no matter who or where they are.

The British Red Cross provides emergency help, such as food parcels and vouchers, warm clothing and sleeping bags to destitute asylum seekers either directly or with partner agencies across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We also help through signposting to other services and providing much needed empathy and understanding by treating clients with dignity.

As such we have a comprehensive understanding of the asylum system, its shortcomings and the resulting human suffering across the whole of the United Kingdom.

(Throughout this document “clients” refers to asylum seekers, refugees and refused asylum seekers who have accessed BRC services.)

1 Who we are

1.1 The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are and is a part of the world’s leading and oldest humanitarian movement.

1.2 We are part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which comprises:

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and
  • 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide.

1.3 As a part of a global network that responds to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies, we enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities, and when the crisis is over we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

1.4 As a member of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the British Red Cross is committed to, and bound by, the Movement’s Fundamental Principles. These are: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

1.5 As an auxiliary to government across the UK, we help the emergency services, public authorities and other voluntary agencies in any way we can to meet the needs of our clients.

1.6 Our interest in the consultation stems from our work in the UK with asylum seekers, refugees, asylum applicants at end-of-process and vulnerable migrants across the whole of the UK.

The Asylum System

2 Destitution amongst asylum seekers and refugees.

2.1 The majority of our refugee clients in the U.K. are destitute refugees and asylum seekers.

2.2 We help around 6000 destitute clients a year. The number of clients we assist who are destitute is increasing. With no means to support themselves, many have nowhere else other than the British Red Cross to turn to for help.

2.3 In the last 6 months 25% of destitute clients were Appeal Rights Exhausted with no further action being taken on their case.

2.4 However, 56% of clients were destitute due to a variety of administrative failings and delays within the asylum system (which are discussed below).

2.5 The BRC has a humanitarian duty to provide help impartially and according to need, regardless of nationality or immigration status, and to protect human life and dignity. We find ourselves picking up the pieces from an asylum system that is leaving people destitute and in crisis.

3 The process of claiming asylum: general concerns about inefficiency in UKBA’s CAAU.

3.1 BRC are extremely concerned with ensuring all current UKBA backlogs are tackled as a priority to give dignity and justice to those within them who have been waiting for unacceptable amounts of time.

3.2 Not only do the backlogs fail basic tests of fair treatment and legitimate expectation in relation to public service standards, we know that the clients experience huge anxiety as a result of the uncertainty of their claim.

3.3 This is further compounded by the fact that they will be on a low level of support for that time (with many on the extremely low-level of Section 4 support). Clients will be unable to work during this period.

3.4 The primary issue we would like to see addressed is the maladministration of CAAU/OLCU.

3.5 As the Committee has noted in their Fourteenth Report of Session 2012–13, there are serious, chronic and systemic problems with the UK Border Agency’s handling of asylum claims, especially in relation to clients within the various backlogs.

3.6 Our experience working with clients across the UK substantiates the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s report into the legacy programme and the transition into CAAU (see “An inspection of the UK Border Agency’s handling of legacy asylum and migration cases”.)

3.7 We are concerned that a significant number of BRC clients have cases that are placed within the CAAU (mostly older cases) including clients who have made further submissions.

3.8 Those with “live” claims within this unit have, in some cases, been waiting for years to have their claim assessed. Some asylum seekers are not even recorded as having a “live” case in the CAAU even though they believed their case was still being processed. For example, BRC have had reports from clients who have been signing at a police station regularly only to discover that their claim is in the archives.

3.9 As such, BRC echoes the concerns of the Chief Inspector that there may be some cases in the CAAU archives that should be classified as live cases.

3.10 A high percentage of these claims will be end-of-process but importantly “unconcluded” and therefore may potentially be entitled to S.4 support.

3.11 Furthermore, some BRC clients (not just those who have further submissions but people who are still waiting for an initial decision on their case) will be entitled to asylum. They are currently without status. We are currently supporting such people as part of our humanitarian mandate.

3.12 We maintain that it is unacceptable that important correspondence from these groups has been found to go missing. We think that transparency within the UKBA’s relationship to Parliament is absolutely paramount in this area.

3.13 These problems add up to a large-scale failing in administration by the UKBA that has a serious impact on a significant cohort of asylum seekers in the UK.

Case Study: CAAU Client

Mr B Karim is an Afghan national who entered the UK in July 2003 and claimed asylum on the same day at port of entry.

He was detained; his claim was fast tracked and refused a week later. He exhausted his appeal rights in September 2003. He failed to submit fresh representations as he did not have legal representative (as he could not afford the cost).

He turned to his community for support and assistance moving back and forth between London and Birmingham in search of friends and religious organisations to accommodate him.

In 2010, through word of mouth, he heard about the legacy programme and sought advice from an immigration solicitor who approached the Home Office asking Mr Karim’s case to be reviewed as part of the Legacy cases.

In June 2010, the CRD informed him that his case was in the backlog and that they were in the process of concluding it.

In January 2011, Mr Karim approached his local MP to enquire about the progress of his case.

In reply, in April 2012 the CAAU contacted him (via email) to let him know that he did not have any outstanding applications and so had no basis to stay in the UK and hence should make arrangements to leave the country as soon as possible.

However, the CAAU informed the MP that his case had been put into a controlled archive as Mr Karim failed to get in touch with them.

He has since taken the matter to the European Court of Human Rights and awaits an outcome.

(Applicants name has been altered).

BRC believe that the scale of the backlogs is extremely grave and needs extra resource to be addressed. The system is beyond breaking point. Even when cases are “cleared”, there are more cases coming into the unit’s “live” cases workstream from the archive all the time.

3.14 We believe that the existing structure of performance management are inadequate and only deep reform of the Agency can improve the humanitarian situation for thousands of the people we help each week.

3.15 There also appears to be a serious lack of resource within the unit.

3.16 There needs to be more staff and resources in the CAAU/OLCU to prevent the growing of a further backlog. The Chief Inspector’s forthcoming investigation into the UKBA’s progress to conclude the reopened and “live” cases should provide a template for effective casework and management processes. These should be fully implemented and the committee should ensure that guidance is consistent and effective.

3.17 As the Chief Inspector himself has acknowledged some of the decision-making on asylum applications at UKBA has been inconsistent in recent times whether relating to the CAAU or not.

3.18 We see the problems as being systemic and mainly threefold: administrative delays, a “culture of disbelief” and a need to instil a better public service ethos of accountability at all levels within UKBA.

3.19 With regards to the above, BRC held a recent Chatham House roundtable on refused asylum seekers unable to return to their country of origin. Held with sectoral and government representatives, we set out to find realistic ways to achieve positive outcomes for this group in light of current political obstacles especially in regards to UKBA. The group produced the following key recommendations:

  • Caseworkers/officers should be encouraged, or even obliged, to visit refugee organisations and interact with asylum seekers in a less hostile environment outside of their workplace.
  • Case workers need a much higher level of expertise when assessing individual asylum applications to establish credibility; with better cultural understanding and knowledge of Country of Origin.
  • Case workers should be provided with better training and guidance
  • Introducing better operational leadership and management (perhaps by recruiting committed and business-minded managers and by introducing business plans as is done in other parts of the civil service).
  • Although the Red Cross movement is strictly impartial we are concerned that operational culture at UKBA seems to be lacking in accountability. (It is unacceptable that 35% of complaints about UKBA are repeat complaints).
  • Identifying incompetent caseworkers and removing them should also be considered.

3.20 Until root and branch reform of the UKBA takes place along these lines, we still believe the problems will remain systemic

3.21 In the interim, the British Red Cross encourages the Committee to press the government to allow asylum seekers the right to work in the UK if their claim takes over 6 months.

3.22 At a minimum, we believe that Section 4 should be abolished and all asylum seekers bought on to cash support through Section 95 until they have left the country or have been granted status.

3.23 Good quality legal advice should also be provided as soon as possible in the asylum process until reform happens.

4 Use of Country of Origin Information guidance and Operational Guidance Notes

4.1 The British Red Cross notes with concern the recent Refugee Council report “Between a Rock and Hard Place”. The report indicates the CoI guidance system is not robust enough to correctly assess the claims for Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave for people arriving in the UK from Countries of Origin where systemic human rights abuses take place. This “protection gap” is a key area of concern for us as a humanitarian organisation.

4.2 The report finds that there is overwhelming independent evidence of human rights abuses within Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. It also reports, however, that few asylum seekers from these countries are granted Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave to Remain. In 2011, only 0.7% of 2,863 initial decisions from these countries were granted Humanitarian Protection and only 6.5% were granted Discretionary Leave to Remain.

4.3 Consequently, many people who originate from these countries are left destitute despite having a well-founded fear of return.

4.4 We are concerned that only 5% of asylum seekers who failed to gain refugee status were granted Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave last year, leaving many destitute.

4.5 We believe that an expansive, inclusive and progressive interpretation of Humanitarian Protection and Discretionary Leave to Remain regimes are needed in line with CoI guidance and Operational Guidance Notes.

4.6 We further note with interest the recent Asylum Aid report concerning gender-related asylum claims in Europe245.

4.7 There appears to be little consistency between the actions of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Border Agency. Whilst the UK Foreign Secretary sees reducing sexual violence in conflict towards women in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a priority, the UKBA is refusing 62% of women from the same place on the grounds that their stories are not credible.

4.8 Although we welcome the initial work done in liaison with the voluntary sector by government in this area gender sensitivity should be improved.

5 Effectiveness of the 5 year Review System

5.1 The granting of definite leave (DL) instead of indefinite leave is creating a new backlog in the system which the UKBA will have to deal with later.

5.2 A system where the DL applications, running into the many thousands, will have to be revisited and then possibly deferred until another arbitrary, future date, is inefficient and represents an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle.

5.3 However, if the system is not scrapped applications should be dealt with in a timely manner and there should be published target times to allow for increased accountability of UKBA.

The Support System.

6 Asylum Support.

6.1 Although not technically destitute, we maintain that Asylum Support Rates are now so low as to create serious problems around sustaining even a basic existence.

6.2 As such BRC also believes that the level of Asylum Support Rates should be uprated in line with other benefits to make sure that even this most basic level of support is not being eroded by inflation at the very least.

6.3 As there are serious problems with the current UK asylum system, there should be an end-to-end support system for asylum seekers in the UK.

7 Section 4.

7.1 70% of income support is the basic level of benefits that we see as meeting essential living needs for people living in the UK.

7.2 As it falls below this, Section 4 should be abolished and replaced with a benefit that at least meets this threshold or replaced with Section 95/98.

7.3 Any new benefit that would replace Section 4 should be cash-based and could be administered via the Post Office network to avoid some of the problems that asylum seekers have with bank administrative processes.

7.4 We are concerned at the operation of the Azure payment card and regularly see people who are suffering because of this inflexible payment system. We maintain that all support should be in cash and not in the form of a parallel currency. This would ultimately be a more efficiently administered system without the complexity of the card system.

8 Destitution among asylum seekers and refugees in relation to Section 4 (S4).

8.1 1 in 4 of our destitute clients are at the end-of-process and have exhausted their appeal rights but remain in the UK without access to Section 4. We see this as a key humanitarian concern as they are left marginalised and destitute.

8.2 That noted, the main issue we see for our clients is the lengthy administrative delays and problems they experience in dealing with UKBA (with the caveat that we see “transition” to DWP benefits as critical, discussed further below) with regards to accessing Section 4 when they are entitled to.

8.3 Our concerns are reflected in our evidence base. Currently we can show that in the last 6 months, 33% of our destitute clients had submitted fresh representations and/or Section 4 applications but were experiencing delays in obtaining Section 4 support.

8.4 Furthermore, in the recent BRC-funded report “Trapped: Destitution in Scotland” BRC evidence showed that roughly 1 in 4 cases of destitution in Scotland are caused by delays in Section 4 grants.

8.5 Destitution resulting from delays in administering Section 4 has been highlighted by the voluntary sector for many years. This will typically be the only form of support they are entitled to as, if at end-of-process, they have no entitlement to work and have no recourse to public funds.

8.6 The main support delay within the granting of Section 4 (S.4) is in relation to clients who are destitute but who have made further submissions in relation to their asylum application.

8.7 In general, although a claim for Section 4 can be made at any point by a refused asylum seeker, these claims are most commonly submitted alongside further “fresh” submissions.

8.8 Since October 2009 it has been necessary to make further representations in person at the Liverpool Further Submissions Unit. UKBA examine whether any further representations do indeed meet the criteria of a fresh submission.

8.9 This creates an additional practical barrier for clients to exercise their rights as they will often encounter difficulty attending. UKBA should consider other options to enter further representations that do not incur a cost to people who may already be destitute.

8.10 This issue is complicated by the joint submission of Section 4 applications and further representations as part of an applicant’s refused asylum claim.

8.11 At this point it was common for clients to experience a delay when UKBA were assessing whether their submission met the test for “fresh submissions” contained in paragraph 353 of the Immigration Rules 1999. We witnessed significant destitution and suffering as a result of this delay.

8.12 In the Judicial Review case of MK and AH v SSHD this delay was found to be unlawful because such a “blanket delay” involves a significant risk that the Article 3 rights of an applicant will be breached.

8.13 To comply with the judgment, the Home Office has now indicated that a Section 4 application for clients meeting the test of further submissions ought to be processed within 2 days if the client is in severe need/destitute (ie are actually physically street homeless) and 5 days for those who are imminently at risk “where possible”. However, we believe that this is still not happening in every case.

8.14 This is corroborated in a recent letter from Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of UKBA, to Director of UK Services, BRC, Margaret Lally. It states:

“We have made some changes to procedures in light of the court judgement you mention and now try to ensure that where possible cases are decided (in 5/2 days). It is not always possible to commit to these target times, given the complexity of some cases or because of the need to make further enquiries.” In the same letter Mr Whiteman states that the average waiting time is just over 6 days.

8.15 We would encourage UKBA not to use average statistics which may obfuscate the longer lengths that destitute/at-risk people are waiting to access Section 4.

8.16 We remain concerned that a significant proportion of our destitute clients are destitute such administrative delays in Section 4.

8.17 Despite some emerging evidence that Section 4 is being granted more efficiently in more cases than in the recent past, UKBA must ensure that all cases are decided within the relevant 5/2 days timeframe in line with the judgement. 5 days should be an absolute maximum for assessment according to the “fresh submission” test.

8.18 In light of the mixed evidence cited above we encourage the Home Affairs Select Committee to seek assurances that claims will be assessed within 2/5days and Section 4 be granted immediately after that.

8.19 Where the representation is found to meet the test for “fresh submissions” quality decision making from the UKBA on the asylum application itself must be ensured despite a live S. 4 claim.

9 Transition: Asylum Support and Section 4, Section 95 (& 98) and mainstream DWP benefits.

9.1 The transition between the two different types of support is a major contributing factor to destitution amongst asylum seekers. In nearly 1 in 5 cases of destitution that we see the client has status but has not yet received welfare benefits or housing support. This is particularly common when Asylum Support ends after 28 days but normal benefits have yet to begin through no fault of the client.

9.2 As It is striking to note how many people at any BRC project will have status and yet will still be without support due to a breakdown in administration at this point. Where clients lose support to which they are legally entitled it is a particularly acute injustice.

9.3 The transition between the two systems often results in actual homelessness and the transition from UKBA housing providers to new accommodation is particularly problematic.

9.4 Outside of the main issue of the level of support per se we see it as a fundamental role of government to take action to improve “transition” and the 28 day grace period; the “move on” period.

9.5 There should be seamless transition between DWP and UKBA support for people granted status. We know that this is currently not happening and is forcing many people into destitution. This is fundamentally unacceptable for people who have been recognised as refugees.

9.6 BRC would like to draw the Committee’s attention to the recent Asylum Support Appeals Project’s briefing on the importance of the First Tier Tribunal Asylum Support’s judgements on principles of law relating to the administration of Section 95 support and Section 4 support once UKBA states their intention to award Leave.

9.7 Those who are awarded leave to remain should continue to receive asylum support until after they receive their status documents from UKBA for 28 days as only these documents will serve as evidence for entitlement to benefits, not a letter of grant.

9.8 As the First Tier judgements indicate: the Asylum Support grace period of 28 days should be counted from the day a person receives their status documents and not from the day they receive a letter from UKBA stating their intention to award leave.

9.9 There is currently no flexibility in the 28 day grace period. If mainstream benefits have not been processed or a client has been unable to access them through their local Job Centre Plus then the client will become destitute. And then they have to come to the British Red Cross for support, even though they are entitled to benefit support.

9.10 Furthermore, the system is supposed to be in place to ensure that it does not take more than 28 days for someone granted status (from the point of receipt of their status bundle) to access mainstream benefits (when UKBA Asylum Support stops). We know from our experience that this is manifestly not happening in a large proportion of cases.246

9.11 The delays are due to a complex system of administrative issues involving UKBA and DWP systems; as was summarised by a BRC frontline worker: “The main problems as I see it is that there’s no continuity of support if you come off one thing you have to go through a whole application process for the next bit, there is no bridge.”

9.12 The recent case of Child EG illustrates this point well (around the death of a mother and her child in London). It is worth emphasising that the Serious Case Review from the Westminster local safeguarding children board stated that the transition from UKBA to DWP benefits was a contributing factor to the tragic outcome of that particular case247.

9.13 Both departments must address the structural issues involved in the “move on” period and transition as a matter of priority. There is currently a grave mismatch between guidance and practice at all stages of the transition.

9.14 Primarily, problems with national insurance numbers (NINO) cause delay in accessing benefits. The point at which the client will get issued with a NINO is inconsistent.

Case study. Transition Delays.

Mr Khan and his family (wife and two children) approached the British Red Cross in February 2013 to seek help in regards to the issue they were facing with Job Centre Plus.

They were granted Refugee Status on 17/11/2012; their Biometric Residence Permits were apparently issued on this date but only received by the client (through their solicitors) in January 2013.

On 23/11/2012, Mr Khan visited their local Job Centre Plus for the first time and when trying to make a JSA claim (over the phone) but were told that he should apply for a NINo first. As a result he was sent the CA5400 form to complete.

On 5/12/2012 our clients sent the form back. A letter dated 11/12/2013 from NINo National Centre informed client that their NINo application was refused because they had “failed to provide sufficient evidence of identity”. At that time they had not yet received their Biometric Residence Permits.

On 11/01/2013, having finally received their Biometric Residence Permit, Mr Khan and his family invited to attend an appointment at Job Centre Plus to complete the CA5400 form. On 13/01/2013, our client tried to complete a JSA claim on-line but, not having a NINo, could not proceed.

On 21/01/2013, advised by a friend, Mr Khan contacted the JCP New Claim line and applied for JSA, with the interview on 24/01/2013 at their local Job Centre Plus. At the interview, they handed in all his Home Office documents in their possession, including their Biometric Residence Permits (which were photocopied by JCP officials), Home Office letters and NASS35.

On the first week of February, Mr Khan received a telephone call from the Benefit Delivery Centre asking to provide his Home Office documents. As per instructions, Mr Khan client sent these again, this time using the free post envelope collected at the local Job Centre Plus. On 14th February, not having heard any news from the Benefit Centre, Mr Khan came to the Red Cross for help.

In the presence of our advisors, Mr Khan contacted the Job Centre Plus Contact Centre to chase his (and his wife’s joint) Job Seeker’s Allowance claim.The adviser insisted that without NINo the claim could not proceed and blamed Mr Khan for not having one. BRC advisors suggested to the adviser to send an internal e-mail to the competent Benefit Delivery Centre for clarification, requesting an Urdu interpreter for the call back.

On 15th February, our client received a follow-up call from the Benefit Delivery Centre (without interpreter). He was told that they could not proceed with the claim as they could not find their Home Office documents. Our client tried to explain that these documents had already been provided twice. He was finally advised that someone would have called him again with more information.

No more information was then received by Mr Khan.

On 27th February, following a detailed letter from the Red Cross to the Benefit Delivery Centre and to the JCP District Manager, Mr Khan and his wife finally received their full Job Seeker’s Allowance payment. A few weeks later, Mr Khan and his wife were also finally allocated a National Insurance Number.

(Applicants name has been altered).

9.15 Key solutions should include:

  • Better explanation of the grace period, preferably in language of origin, for refugees on reward of status to ensure that people understand their applications should be received as soon as possible in the grace period, not when that period has expired. If not in language of origin then any communication should meet a basic plain English test.
  • Consistency in respect of the point at which the refugee will get issued with a NINO, moving towards the ideal of having all NINOs issued in the status bundle by UKBA.
  • Guaranteeing UKBA case-owner awareness of the NINO “fast-path process” and the issues around transitioning to mainstream benefits.
  • Clear and consistent lines of responsibility for NINO dissemination between the two departments.
  • That UBKA be allowed to liaise with DWP for sharing of data on refugees moving to mainstream benefits. This includes a procedure for JCP staff to contact UKBA for evidence of identity without the NINO.
  • Better training and dissemination of current policy on claims for JCP staff to allow a JSA claim (or Universal Credit claim) for refugees without a National Insurance Number. This includes comprehensive training of DWP staff on the “clerical procedure” for allowing refugees to receive benefits without NINO.
  • Interpreters should be provided and/or allowed at every critical interview with JCP.
  • Finally, consideration of an extension of the grace period from 28 days to 6–8 weeks or, in a best-case scenario, 3 months. This is approaching revenue neutrality as the funds are both ultimately obtained from the Treasury. This could be partly achieved by DWP funding existing UKBA accommodation for an interim period until housing support has been allocated.

9.16 Not only are these problems in transition also often causing destitution and denying funds to refugees that they are legally entitled to but the system is building in a series of unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

9.17 It must be impressed upon Ministers and government that this is an urgent issue to be addressed and resources provided to Home Office/UKBA to solve the administrative issues causing destitution to people who have received status.

10 Other potential humanitarian issues for refugees and asylum seekers: Trafficking.

10.1 Whilst most of our work is with refugees and asylum seekers we also work with other vulnerable migrants.

10.2 We work with individuals who have been trafficked into the UK. We can be called upon by the police, UKBA, SOCA (NCA) and the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority to provide humanitarian assistance to those individuals who are identified as trafficking victims during raids.

10.3 These individuals have been severely traumatised with long-lasting emotional, as well as physical, scars.

10.4 We welcome any commitment from government to provide UKBA with greater training in how they would work with vulnerable migrants in this situation.

10.5 The British Red Cross would, however, like to see a commitment to ensuring that there are appropriate aftercare arrangements in place for these individuals which can be accessed irrespective of their migration status. These should include:

  • People should be treated primarily as victims
  • Appropriate cultural sensitive counselling
  • Safe accommodation
  • Ability to contact family and friends
  • Particularly if the individual is to be returned to their own country, support to develop the skills which they will need to avoid being caught up in similar situations again
  • Resettlement grants.

10.6 For example, people who have been trafficked may have been required to participate in criminal enterprises such as cannabis farms, which may mean they are subsequently investigated and prosecuted for drugs offences.

10.7 The difficulties they experience in communicating and understanding the formal processes of claiming asylum also apply to the formal processes of prosecution for crimes: it also hardly aids their claim for asylum if they are being prosecuted for drugs offences, even if the criminal acts were coerced.

10.8 Robust identification of such people as victims rather than agents of criminality is needed in UKBA and Home Office systems.

10.9 A comprehensive approach, involving the police and prosecutors and the third sector, that is more sensitive to these factors, would improve outcomes and increase protection.

11 Key Recommendations

11.1 The British Red Cross believes that the scale of the UKBA backlogs is extremely grave and needs extra resource to be addressed.

11.2 The Committee should consider the policy recommendations of the recent British Red Cross roundtable (below) to address the lack of an ethos of accountability at UKBA.

11.3 Both UKBA and DWP must address the structural issues involved in the “move on” period and transition as a matter of priority.

11.4 We believe that Section 4 should be abolished and all asylum seekers bought on to cash support through Section 95 until they have left the country or have been granted status.

11.5 The British Red Cross also believes that the level of Asylum Support Rates should be uprated in line with other benefits

11.6 UKBA must ensure that all “fresh submissions” are decided within the relevant 5/2 days timeframe in line with the recent Kanyemba judgement. 5 days should be an absolute maximum for an assessment according to the “fresh submission” test.

11.7 Where representations are found to meet the test for “fresh submissions” quality decision making from the UKBA on the asylum application itself must be ensured despite a live S. 4 claim.

11.8 We maintain that all support should be in cash and not in the form of a parallel currency.

11.9 The British Red Cross encourages the Committee to press the government to allow asylum seekers the right to work in the UK if their claim takes over 6 months through no fault of their own.

11.10 Good quality legal advice should also be provided as soon as possible in the asylum process.

British Red Cross

April 2013

246 UKBA and DWP have been tracking 2 sample cohorts of new grants made in January to asylum seekers in London and Leeds in order to add to the evidence base on move-on problems. Their findings substantiate the point made here.

247 Although the serious case review of EG found that there was not simply a causal relationship between the two.

Prepared 11th October 2013