The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q3 2015) Contents

2UK Visas and Immigration

Visa applications

2.The UK points-based system provides for visas in separate categories: Tier 1 is for “high value” individuals; Tier 2 is for skilled workers from outside the EU with a skilled job offer; Tier 4 is for students; and Tier 5 is for temporary workers. The table below gives the total number of visas granted in the 12 months up to September 2015 and comparison with the previous 12 months.

Visas granted by reason1






Year ending Sept 2015






Year ending Sept 2014






Percentage change






Source: Home Office, National Statistics, Visas, November 2015

The most common nationalities given visas were Chinese (92,353 or 17% of the total), Indian (86,706 or 16%) and nationals of the United States of America (35,892 or 7%).

Visa applications in-country and out-of-country

Service standards

3.In January 2014, UKVI introduced a new set of standards with the aim of providing customers with more clarity on when they would receive an outcome to their immigration application. These standards apply for what the Home Office call straightforward applications—where the applicant has met all their obligations. UKVI has said that 98.5% of straightforward cases will be processed within the service standards set out below.

Service Standards for Temporary Migration

Customer Service Standards

Tier 1 Work

8 Weeks

Tier 2 Work

8 Weeks

Tier 4 Study

8 Weeks

Tier 5

8 Weeks


8 Weeks

4.In Q3 2015, 97.7% of straightforward Tier 4 student visa, 88.5% of straightforward Tier 1, and 99.6% of Tier 2 visa cases were processed within the service standard of 8 weeks. Service standards do not apply to cases defined as non-straightforward. We have discussed at length the issues around straightforward and non-straightforward cases,3 and why service standards do not apply to the latter.4

5.In Q3 2015, there were 122,006 permanent and temporary migration cases within service standards and no cases outside service standards. In the same quarter there were 28,468 cases described as Service Standards Not Applicable.

Improved performance

Sponsors and licensing

6.Applications under Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 require a sponsoring body. Under Tier 2 and Tier 5 (Temporary workers) the sponsor must be an employer based in the UK. Under Tier 4, the sponsor must be an education provider. Such organisations have to apply to UKVI to get sponsor status. There are service standards for the time taken to process applications for sponsor status.

Sponsorship service standards


Customer Service Standards

Sponsor (pre-licence)

8 Weeks

Sponsor (post-licence)

18 Weeks

Sponsor (highly trusted sponsorship)

18 Weeks

Sponsor (renewals)

18 Weeks

Improved performance

7.Since Q1 2014, performance against these standards has been 100%, except for a slight dip to 99.7% on Tier 4 Highly Trusted Status in Q4 2014. In Q3 2015 the performance was 100%.5

Sponsor applications

8.The chart below shows sponsor application made by Tier. The majority are for Tier 2 work.

Sponsor applications made by Tier

In Q3 2015 1,973 applications were made in Tier 2, compared to 38 Tier 4 applications and 106 Tier 5 applications. Overall there was a 5% increase from 2,025 applications made in Q2 2015 to 2,117 applications made in Q3 2015.6

Worse performance

Follow-up visits

The chart below shows the proportion of follow-up visits to visa sponsors for Tiers 2, 4 and 5. The majority have consistently been to Tier 2 work visa employers.

Follow-up visits to visa sponsors

Worse performance

9.We commented on the proportion of post-licence visits that were unannounced in our last report. In response the Government pointed out that it has developed its investigations of sponsorship compliance so it is more targeted and intelligence-led, and that this has resulted in some form of compliance sanction in 83% of cases.9

New asylum cases

10.There were 29,024 asylum applications in the year ending September 2015, an increase of 19% compared with the previous year (24,324). This remains considerably below the peak of 84,132 applications in 2002. The table below shows the number of applications and initial decisions for the year ending September 2015 and the previous year.

Total applications

Total initial decisions

Granted some form of protection

Granted as a % of initial decisions

Year ending Sept 2015





Year ending Sept 2014





Percentage change




Immigration Statistics, July to September 201510

The total number of applications for asylum has increased each year since 2011. Since late 2012, the number of applications in each quarter has fluctuated between 5,500 and 6,900. In Q3 2015, the number of applications was 10,156. Between Q1 2012 and Q2 2015, the number of applications for main applicants and dependants in each quarter has fluctuated between 6,300 and over 9,000 in Q3 2014. In Q3 2015 it reached 12,028.

11.Since Q1 2012, the number of asylum applications had consistently been higher than the number of initial decisions. The number of initial decisions increased each quarter in 2014, and in Q4 2014 the number of initial decisions surpassed the number of applications. However, this progress has stalled.

Worse performance

Asylum applications and initial decisions

Asylum applications pending initial decision

The chart below shows the number of asylum applications pending an initial decision and further review.

Asylum applications pending initial decision and further review

Worse performance

The number of asylum applications for main applicants and dependants pending an initial decision in Q4 2014 was 31,545. This figure then decreased in the first two quarters of 2015. In Q2 2015 the number of asylum applications for main applicants and dependants pending an initial decision was 29,586. In Q3 2015 the number started to climb again to 31,881. This is higher than any quarter since Q1 2012.12

Improved performance

Asylum applications pending initial decision for more than 6 months

12.Our predecessor Committee repeatedly raised the question of how long it takes for asylum applications to receive an initial decision.13 The Government has said that all straightforward asylum claims made after 1 April 2014 will be given a decision within six months.14 For those that are considered non-straightforward then UKVI aim to decide these cases within 12 months. The Government has said these will be reviewed and new service standards will be published once it is confident that these timescales are the right ones.15 The table below gives the numbers given a decision within 6 months in each quarter.

Adult asylum intake and decisions within 6 months


Total Adult Applications in cohort§

Of which Total with a Decision Made in 6 Months

% Decided in 6 months

2013 Q2




2013 Q3




2013 Q4




2014 Q1




2014 Q2




2014 Q3




2014 Q4




2015 Q1




2015 Q2




2015 Q3




§ The number of adult applications which had an initial decision by the time the case was 6 months old

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics July to September 2015, Asylum table as 01 q

13.The Minister for Immigration told us that the Department had worked to reach this service standard of all straightforward asylum claims receiving a decision in 6 months.16 Sarah Rapson, Director General of UKVI, also pointed out that they had cleared the backlog of older work before March 2015 and aimed to maintain the service standard even as the intake is rising. When asked why the number of applications was rising, the Minister said it was a mix of those who claim asylum on arrival, those picked up through enforcement visits and some who come to the end of their visas and then claim asylum. He felt the mix of cases was “informed” by the ongoing migration crisis.17

14.UKVI altered its service standards timetable so that a higher proportion of new straightforward claims for asylum are given an initial decision within six months. This is at the same time as the number of applications is rising. The total number of main applications in the year ending September 2015 was 19% higher than in the year ending September 2014. In Q3 2015 the number of main applicants and dependants reached 12,028 compared to 7,567 in Q2 2015.

15.The number of asylum applications surpassed the number of decisions made in Q3 2015. We are concerned that the department may not be able to maintain the service levels it has set itself on initial decisions for new asylum claims within 6 months. To do so may require further funding and resources.

Applications and initial decisions by common nationality

16.In the year ending September 2015, the largest number of applications for asylum came from nationals of Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Syria and Pakistan. The table below shows the number of applications from each of those countries for the four quarters up to the end of September 2015.

Applications Year ending Sept 2015

Applications Q4 2014

Applications Q1 2015


Q2 2015

Applications Q3 2015































Source: Asylum table as 01 q

17.As the number of asylum applications has increased, the increase in applications from the most common nationalities has become more pronounced. Between Q2 2015 and Q3 2015 the number of applications from Sudan almost trebled. The number of applications from Syria have more than doubled. Applications from Eritrea and Iran have almost doubled.

18.The proportion of decisions leading to a grant of protection, such as asylum, differs for applications from different nationalities. The tables below show the proportion of applications that led to a grant of some form of protection for the five nationalities that made the most applications, for 2013 and 2014.

Asylum applications leading to a grant of some form of protection 2013



Grants of protection

% grants of decisions that lead to protection


























Most of the figures are fairly consistent over time. Only about 20–22% of applicants from Pakistan were granted protection; similarly about 50–55% of applicants from Iran were granted protection. Sudanese and Syrian applicants tended to be more successful, reaching between 73% and 86%.

Asylum applications leading to a grant of some form of protection 2014



Grants of protection

% grants of decisions that lead to protection


























19.In 2013 and 2014, over 82% of applications from Eritreans resulted in some form of protection. In Q1 2015, 77% of applications from Eritreans were granted some form of protection. In Q2 2015, this fell to 34%.18 This fall in the proportion of Eritreans granted protection coincided with the UK issuing new country guidance on Eritrea in March.19 In Q3 2015 the proportion of applications from Eritreans that were granted some form of protection slightly increased to 39%.

20.In our last report we asked the Government to explain the dramatic change in success rates for applications from Eritreans. In its Response, the Government said its country information and guidance is based on:

A careful and objective assessment of the situation in Eritrea using evidence taken from a range of sources such as local, national and international organisations, including human rights organisations, information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and trusted media outlets. The Home Office regularly updates this guidance and has done so several times in 2015. The guidance was most recently revised in September 2015 to take into account the United Nations’ report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea which was published in June.20

We note that the UN report published in June 2015 said:

The Commission found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government. Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.

The Commission also recommended that the international community:

Pending tangible progress in the situation of human rights, in particular the adoption of reforms that seriously address the problems identified in by the Commission in the present report, continue to provide protection to all those who have fled and continue to flee Eritrea owing to severe violations of their rights or fear thereof.21

21.The Independent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information (IAGCI), which reports to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, has also raised serious concerns about Home Office country guidance regarding Eritrea.22 We recommend that the Home Office reconsider its country guidance on Eritrea, taking into account the findings of the Independent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information. We will continue to monitor closely the proportion of successful and unsuccessful asylum applications from Eritreans.

COMPASS contracts and asylum accommodation

22.Under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, asylum seekers can apply for support while waiting for their claim (or appeal) to be considered. Support can be for accommodation and/or subsistence, according to their circumstances and on condition that they satisfy a destitution test. If provided, accommodation is offered in a dispersal area—i.e. away from London and the South East, and only in areas where there is agreement with the local authority, and where the number of asylum seekers does not exceed an upper limit of one asylum seeker to 200 residents.23

23.In 2009, the then UK Border Agency launched Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services, commonly known as COMPASS. In 2012, six COMPASS contracts replaced the previous 22 contracts. There are now three providers each of which has a COMPASS contract for two regions.

COMPASS providers and regions


Main contractor


Scotland and Northern Ireland


Orchard & Shipman

North West



Midlands and East of England


Live Management Group, Target Housing, UHS, Mantel Estates

North East, Yorkshire and the Humber


Live Management, Target Housing, UHS, Jomast and Cascade

Wales and the South West



London and the South East


“Four subcontractors”

NAO Report, COMPASS contracts for the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers, Jan 2014

When the contracts started in 2012, only Clearsprings was an established landlord; G4S and Serco had to find sub-contractors to provide housing.

Red doors

24.The COMPASS contract for accommodation for asylum seekers in Middlesbrough and Stockton is held by G4S, which sub-contracts provision to Jomast, a company which describes itself on its website as “a pre-eminent force in the UK property market and which is now a leading and innovative developer, owner and manager of commercial and residential property.”24

25.On 20 January 2016, The Times reported that asylum seekers in accommodation provided in Middlesbrough on s.95 support were suffering harassment because their properties were easily identifiable through the front doors being painted red. Asylum seekers interviewed by reporters said they had received verbal abuse, racist graffiti scratched into the door, dog excrement smeared on the door, and stones thrown at the windows and door.25 Similar concerns regarding the red doors had been raised in 2012 by Suzanne Fletcher, a former local councillor, and Ian Swales, the former MP for Redcar.26

26.The Times reported that 155 of 168 Jomast properties had red doors, and that 62 of the 66 people they spoke to in those properties were asylum seekers.27 After the story appeared, G4S counted all the doors of Jomast properties in Middlesbrough. They found 175 red doors in a total of 298 properties—or 58%.28 Stuart Monk, owner and managing director of Jomast, did not dispute that the doors were red but said they “were painted red probably 20 years ago” and that the practice pre-dated the properties being used for asylum seekers.29

27.The matter was raised in an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on 20 January by the Member for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald MP. In response, the Minister for Immigration promised an immediate inspection and audit of the accommodation by Home Office staff. 30 The Minister told us in February that, while carrying out the audit, officials also interviewed around 60 asylum seekers and that the issue of red doors did not come up in the interviews. Neither the Home Office audit nor G4S inquiries to the local police found any links to antisocial behaviour or stigmatisation of asylum seekers relating to the red doors.31 Mr Monk was asked if there was a policy of painting the doors red.

Chair: You are telling this Committee that there was no deliberate decision to paint those properties in red—

Stuart Monk: Exactly.

Chair: —contrary to what we have seen in the newspapers, and contrary to what the Minister told the House in the Commons last week?

Stuart Monk: Exactly.32

28.The Minister told us his conclusion was that painting the doors red was a method for the sub-contractor to manage the maintenance of the properties rather than a policy to identify the residents. The Home Office audit had concluded that:

Housing providers should ensure that properties used to accommodate asylum seekers cannot be easily identified, either as a deliberate policy or inadvertently. Our assessment on this is that this was inadvertent.33

29.When asked what he had learned from the experience, Mr Monk said his company would look at what they had been doing, and how, and that in future they would have to be more proactive. He conceded that “with the benefit of hindsight we have been very silly.”34

30.Accommodation for asylum seekers in Middlesbrough had doors that were painted a predominant colour. This was clearly wrong. We welcome the decision that the doors will be repainted, and that the repainting will be expedited, so that within a matter of weeks no single colour will predominate. Jomast and G4S must inform us when the repainting has been completed.


31.Clearsprings have managed asylum accommodation since 2000 so they were already involved before COMPASS came into effect in 2012. Their current contract is worth £140 million over five years to provide accommodation in Wales and the South West, and in London and the South East. Mr James Vyvyan-Robinson, Managing Director, Clearsprings, told us he was proud that it had not had to pay money to the Home Office as a result of poor performance for the duration of the contract so far.35 (The other providers, Serco and G4S, have incurred such penalties.)

32.Asylum seekers are placed in short term initial accommodation in the region before being allocated more settled dispersal accommodation. Clearsprings manage a facility for initial accommodation at Lynx House in Cardiff. On 24 January 2016, days after the red doors story broke in Middlesbrough, it was revealed that newly arrived asylum seekers sent to Lynx House had to wear coloured wristbands in order to receive meals. Former residents of Lynx House gave examples of being identified as asylum seekers and verbally abused because of the wristbands. Removing the wristband meant they could be refused food and told that the Home Office would be informed.36 Clearsprings issued a statement saying they had decided to stop using wristbands the day after the press reports, and said they were looking for an alternative way of managing the fair provision of support. We understand the alternative will be a smart card.

33.When asked whether it was right to identify asylum seekers by requiring them to wear wristbands, Mr Vyvyan-Robinson said that wristbands are considered to be one of the most reliable and effective ways of guaranteeing delivery. He gave the example of them being used in “monitoring people’s food on holidays and so on”.37 But he also accepted that there were “consequences that we were unaware of. […] I am not going to defend the wristband process”.38

34.It is appalling that asylum seekers should be required to wear wristbands. This stigmatises asylum seekers, and makes them easily identifiable and therefore open to harassment and abuse. We struggle to see how this practice could ever have been considered acceptable in the first place. It risks besmirching the UK’s reputation in relation to its asylum practices. We believe it is laughable for Mr Vyvyan-Robinson to have suggested that a wristband worn by an asylum seeker is the same as a wristband worn by someone on holiday. It is vital that organisations receiving taxpayer money should be sensitive to the needs of the work they are doing. It is also vital that private organisations who perform public functions should adhere to the same standards that the public would expect of a publicly-delivered service.

35.We welcome Clearsprings’ decision to end the use of wristbands and move to a smart card system for monitoring entitlement to meals. The problems caused by wristbands demonstrate the importance of greater use of technology such as smart cards when dealing with asylum seeker entitlements. We expect all providers of asylum seeker support services to use technological solutions to develop more sophisticated and appropriate mechanisms to monitor entitlement.

Complaints and how to recognise a problem

36.One of the requirements for accommodation provided under the COMPASS contract is to provide a system for residents to complain. Jomast maintain a record of all reported ‘incidents’, and the response and actions taken. The incidents are also reported to G4S. Mr Monk said that notice is given to residents when Jomast staff will attend to inspect or carry out repairs, and so opportunities exist for residents to raise a matter with the Jomast staff. G4S told us they give all asylum seekers a welcome pack including a freephone telephone number for them to call if anything goes wrong. The freephone number receives an average of 2,500 calls a month,39 and over 42,000 calls were received in 2015. The majority of calls are not complaints, but requests to replace inventory items or for repairs.40 Clearsprings also has a complaints mechanism, and Mr Vyvyan-Robinson said it had received only 19 complaints from all 6,500 residents, on all matters, in the last six months.41 He subsequently expanded this figure to 70 complaints over the last 12 months. The Clearsprings records facilitate a breakdown of the type of complaint.42 The evidence received from each contractor on complaints, and other matters, is published on our website.43

37.Neither Jomast nor G4S received any complaints that linked the red doors to abuse. Mr John Whitwam, Managing Director, G4S Immigration & Borders, said the matter had been raised with G4S by Suzanne Fletcher in 2012 and in 2014 and on neither occasion had G4S found any suggestion from the residents that there was a link between the red doors and intimidation. Similarly, Clearsprings said they had received no complaints about the wristbands. Witnesses all said they were unaware that there was a problem, but the journalists did not find it difficult to find asylum seekers willing to explain a link between the red doors or the wristbands and the abuse they had received.44 The fact that complaints systems are not picking up issues such as red doors and wristbands raises concerns about whether these systems are adequate. Either the complaint system is working well, and there is no problem as no one has complained; or the complaint system is not working well and there might be a problem, but we do not know about it because no one has complained. It may also be the case that the low number of complaints arises from a culture of fear amongst asylum seekers.


38.G4S said they were not making a profit from the COMPASS contract. Mr Monk said that asylum accommodation took up 25–30% of his business activities, but it was not very profitable. At the same time, he said that Jomast provide “probably the best standard of asylum accommodation in the country by some considerable margin.” Clearsprings said the contract made them a profit of £740,000 in 2014–15. Mr Vyvyan-Robinson said that he would look for a profit margin of between 3%–5% for a Government contract, but he had never achieved that providing asylum accommodation.45

39.Sarah Rapson, Director General of the UKVI, said that, when the contract began, some of the properties were of a poor standard. G4S and Serco were required to pay service credits relating to the quality of the accommodation of around £6 million in the initial 2012–2013 period. In the last year, the service credits due to poor accommodation were down to £200,000. She said there was a definite commitment on the part of all three contractors to make sure the accommodation met the required standards.46 The Home Office has an option to renew the contracts for another two years in 2017, and then in 2019 the Department will have to decide what kind of model they use beyond that.47

Oversight and inspections

40.There are several mechanisms in place to make sure that accommodation provided under COMPASS is suitable. The contract requires the housing provider to check every property once a month, and also at the point that a resident arrives and when they leave. The local authority are able to check the property. The Home Office has a team of 17 inspectors who check accommodation across the country—and who have checked about 50% of the properties in Middlesbrough.48 Furthermore, there are monthly meetings between the Home Office and each of the providers to assess Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and Sarah Rapson meets with the chief executives of all three companies regularly.49

41.The Home Office has accepted it needs to improve its inspections. Sarah Rapson said:

The Minister has said the lesson we take away is when we are doing our inspections we broaden the perspective of our inspectors to think also much more about the environmental context and community cohesion and the safety and security aspects.50

42.However, the systems for oversight seem to have failed to trigger the required action when problems arose. Mr Monk said the Home Office has been inspecting these properties for 20 years and was “well aware” that the doors were painted red, and Suzanne Fletcher said that Jomast, G4S and the Home Office were all told about the issue in 2012. It is only since the episodes have attracted national media attention that any remedial action has been taken. Mr Monk told us that he had now learned that Jomast will need to consider whether it needs to be more proactive in the future. Mr Vyvyan-Robinson said that he now realised “there is a better way of doing it and that is what we are implementing.”51 Both landlords accepted they would learn from the experience.

43.The response to both the red door and wristband episodes has been one of damage limitation and managing perceptions. A situation that was considered acceptable is now accepted as being ill-judged. It appears that the predominance of red doors in asylum seeker accommodation was inadvertent rather than a deliberate identification system; and similarly, the use of wristbands was a means of ensuring only those who were entitled to them received meals at Lynx House. There seems to be an acute lack of awareness of the particular sensitivities of asylum seekers and why making them identifiable in such ways is wrong.

44. The complaints and inspection processes operated by the contractors and the Home Office appear to be flawed if they failed to identify the issues with red doors and wristbands. The COMPASS contract does not seem to make it clear who is accountable for making sure issues such as the red doors are acted upon when issues arise outside a formal complaints mechanism. Moreover, it is obvious that asylum seekers are unlikely to complain to an organisation that they see as having absolute control over their future. If you have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured for your beliefs in your home country, you are likely to be suspicious of someone who assures you a complaint mechanism is anonymous. The Home Office should encourage the providers to establish user-groups for asylum seekers in their accommodation. This would enable asylum seekers to present problems and complaints with the reassurance of a collective viewpoint, and without individuals feeling at risk from having to identify themselves as complainants.

45.Delivery of the COMPASS contract has been mostly unsatisfactory to date. The only benefit so far gained from reducing the number of contracts from 22 to six—and essentially down to three because there are only three providers—has been to make managing the contracts administratively easier for the Home Office. However, these extremely unfortunate episodes of red doors and wristbands have highlighted some of the problems around oversight of the contracts, particularly in relation to ensuring that the way asylum seekers are accommodated and treated meets basic standards.

46.We intend to examine these matters further. In particular, we plan to investigate the following issues:

We were not able to take evidence from Serco—the other main COMPASS contractor— for the purposes of this report, but we intend to do so in the future.

Dispersal accommodation

47.G4S said that when they took on the COMPASS contract for the North East in 2012, they were providing accommodation for 9,000 asylum seekers. In three years, that number had grown to 17,000. This increase clearly requires a system with considerable flexibility. But the housing providers have to work with local authorities in securing additional accommodation in the 200 local authorities that are part of the dispersal areas.52 This situation is further complicated by other pressures upon suitable accommodation, including asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be resolved, but also the 20,000 Syrians refugees which the Government has pledged to resettle by 2020, and the separate issue of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Sarah Rapson said that the Home Office was aware when talking to local authorities of the need to balance accommodation for each of those three groups.53

48.We set out for information, as Annexes at the end of this report, two tables showing the number of asylum seekers living in each local authority area at the end of Q4 2015.54

49.The Minister told us that the Government was looking to expand the number of local authorities involved in dispersal areas. He acknowledged that the one in 200 ratio of asylum seekers to local residents was implemented to avoid over-concentration in particular communities—a level that had been exceeded in Middlesbrough, and where we received differing views as to whether the numbers were going up or going down since the threshold had been reached.55 It was not clear who is responsible for ensuring the one in 200 threshold is not breached.56 If more local authorities were willing to provide dispersal accommodation, then it would reduce the pressure on places like Middlesbrough and Stockton, where the ratio is exceeded.57 When we asked Mr Vyvyan-Robinson whether he would welcome more local authorities providing dispersal accommodation he said “I would be hugely grateful if more of them would.”58

50.Both G4S and Clearsprings told us that finding sufficient accommodation for asylum seekers in parts of the country is difficult, and this is clearly made more difficult by some local authorities being unwilling to take part in the dispersal system. Clearsprings, which holds the contract in parts of the country with the most expensive rents, made it clear that they would welcome more local authorities providing dispersal accommodation. The Home Office has said it wants more local authorities to take part. Asylum seekers should be dispersed throughout the country and therefore we recommend that more local authorities take part in the dispersal accommodation system and provide suitable accommodation for asylum seekers. Local authorities who have very few, and in many instances no, asylum seekers should be actively encouraged by Ministers to volunteer in the existing scheme. As for Middlesbrough, it is clear that there is disagreement about whether the number of asylum seekers has gone down since the one in 200 ratio of asylum seeker to local resident was breached. It is not clear who holds responsibility for allowing the one in 200 ratio to be breached, nor for making sure it is reduced.

Hotels and hostels

51.Mr Whitwam told us that, on the day he gave evidence, G4S was accommodating 322 asylum seekers in hotels, out of a total of 17,000 in rented accommodation. Mr Vyvyan-Robinson said Clearsprings had over 300 residents in hotels, out of a total of 6,500 asylum seekers in accommodation. He said the main reason for this was a lack of initial accommodation and a lack of dispersal accommodation.59 We asked Mr Vyvyan-Robinson about issues arising from asylum seekers sharing hotels with paying private guests and whether he would prefer to fill a whole hotel rather than use only a proportion of the rooms. His view was that occupying a whole hotel would be better but it would mean that both Clearsprings and UKVI “would have to be prepared to pay for the whole hotel”. Any decision on this would also have to take account of the fluctuation in volumes as the need for hotels had only arisen in the last two years.60

52.The Chief Executive of G4S told us that the number of asylum seekers in their contract area had risen from 9,000 to 17,000. If these numbers keep rising, the pressure on available dispersal accommodation will remain high, and it is likely that other forms of accommodation may need to be used to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers. Problems have arisen with asylum seekers being accommodated in hotels where there are also paying guests, because of the different rules which apply to asylum seeker guests about meals and other issues. It seems to us that, where it is necessary to use temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, it would be sensible to designate this accommodation as hostels entirely for this purpose. However, the Home Office would need first to assess the cost implications for public funds and contractors, based on projections of the fluctuations in numbers of asylum seekers needing this type of alternative accommodation. G4S informed us that they are paid an average of £9.35 per asylum seeker per night.

Syrian refugees

53.Syrians, like other nationalities, can apply for asylum in the UK if they can get to the UK. The following table shows the number of applications for asylum from Syrian nationals since 2009. The number of refusals has remained at a fairly constant low level. The number of applications pending, and the number pending an initial decision over six months, have both increased dramatically since 2013.

Asylum applications and initial decisions for main applicants from Syria


Total applications

Total initial decisions

Grants of asylum

Total refusals

Total pending

Pending initial decision for more than 6 months









































Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme

54.In our last report, we set out the background to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme, initiated in January 2014 and then “enhanced” following the Prime Minister’s statement on the increase in the number of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the UK on 7 September 2015.61 The table below gives the number of Syrians resettled since the scheme started in January 2014. The next set of figures will be published at the end of February.

Refugees (and others) resettled, including dependants, from Syria


Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme

2014 Q1


2014 Q2


2014 Q3


2014 Q4


2015 Q1


2015 Q2


2015 Q3




55.On 28 January 2016 the Government announced that it would work with the UNHCR “to lead a new initiative to resettle unaccompanied children from conflict regions.” The Minister for Immigration said the Government had “asked the UNHCR to make an assessment of the numbers and needs of unaccompanied children in conflict regions”. He described this as a “new initiative” that would build upon the existing commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees during this Parliament. He also pointed out that half of those resettled from Syria so far were children.62 When we questioned him about this, the Minister would not be drawn on which countries might be included in the definition of conflict regions.63

56.On 11 February, the Minister met representatives of local authorities, and NGOs including UNHCR, UNICEF and Save the Children, to discuss unaccompanied minors.64 The discussion included how best to provide support to unaccompanied refugee children including those “in transit in Europe”, and how to prevent children from making dangerous journeys and putting themselves at risk of exploitation and child traffickers.

57.In our last Report on the work of the Immigration Directorates (Q2 2015) we welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrians before the end of this Parliament. We would like to congratulate all those involved in ensuring that the Prime Minister’s commitment to resettle 1,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas 2015 was delivered, and in particular the Minister for Syrian Refugees and his team who hit the Prime Minister’s target and found suitable accommodation. We also expressed concern about whether the UK would be able to increase its capacity to resettle this number of refugees to such a short timescale. We reiterate that concern, particularly in light of the evidence we have heard regarding the COMPASS contracts and the problems with finding sufficient suitable dispersal accommodation. We hope that the Government will continue to explore how individual members of the public can help to provide support and accommodation for the Syrian refugees. While accepting that those who so offer will undoubtedly have genuine and generous reasons for doing so, local authorities must be satisfied about the proposed arrangements. We will continue to monitor the number of Syrians resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme.

58.In its response to this report, the Government must set out what action is being taken in relation to unaccompanied children at risk in conflict regions, following the recent discussions with the UNHCR and the Government’s announcement of 28 January 2016. This should include an estimate of the numbers of children who (a) will be resettled in the UK direct from conflict zones and (b) will be resettled in the UK from Europe. The Government should also clarify whether its plans include resettling unaccompanied children who may be in transit from conflict regions and still at risk. It should also specify where in Europe it is deploying additional resources and expertise to help protect unaccompanied children.

Asylum and immigration caseload

59.The Home Office carried out a programme of work to resolve legacy asylum cases in 2006. This took five years and was overseen by the Case Resolution Directorate (CRD). The workload relating to cases the CRD were unable to conclude were passed to the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU). The CAAU was renamed the Older Live Cases Unit (OLCU) in 2013 to reflect the fact that the focus would be on reviewing the remaining live legacy cases. When the CRD closed in March 2011, it handed over 124,000 archive cases to the CAAU. The 124,000 was split between 98,000 asylum and 26,000 immigration cases. Legacy cases are concluded by granting leave, removing individuals from the country or by cleansing the data of clear errors and duplications.

Legacy asylum cases

60.The total number of asylum cases in the Older Live Cases Unit continues to fall. It started with 98,000 cases where the claim had been made before 5 March 2007.

Total number of legacy asylum cases in the Older Live Cases Unit.

Number of legacy asylum cases concluded and entering the Older Live Cases Unit

Outcomes of legacy asylum conclusions

Legacy immigration cases

61.When the CRD closed in March 2011, it handed over 124,000 archive cases to the CAAU, and of those 124,000 cases, 26,000 were immigration cases where the applicant could not be located.

Improved performance

Worse performance

Legacy migration conclusions and new cases.

62.The chart below shows the number of legacy immigration applications concluded altogether each quarter since Q2 2012.

Legacy immigration conclusions.

Spouse visas and the £18,600 threshold

63.In our last report on the Immigration Directorates, we commented on the number of cases brought to our attention from Members of Parliament about the repercussions of the £18,600 minimum income threshold for those who wish to bring a non-EU spouse into the country. One related issue is that a UK citizen who wishes to bring their non-EU spouse into the UK has to satisfy the minimum income threshold, but a citizen of an EU country who moves to the UK and brings their non-EU spouse with them does not, because the spouse is seen to share the same free movement rights as the EU national. The final text agreed at the European Council on 19 February in advance of the EU referendum included a reference to closing the loophole that allows EU citizens to avoid the minimum threshold, and close the so-called “Surinder Singh route” where a British person can reside in another EU country with their non-EU spouse, and then return to the UK and bring their non-EU spouse under free movement rules, as long as they satisfy certain criteria.65

64. The Minister referred to the text as containing measures to prevent people “subverting our controls in relation to non-EU citizens simply by virtue of the fact that they have married an EU citizen.”66 The agreed text said:

Those enjoying the right to free movement shall abide by the laws of the host Member State.

In accordance with Union law, Member States are able to take action to prevent abuse of rights or fraud, such as the presentation of forged documents, and address cases of contracting or maintaining marriages of convenience with third country nationals for the purpose of making use of free movement as a route for regularising unlawful stay in a Member State or address cases of making use of free movement as a route for bypassing national immigration rules applying to third country nationals.67

65.We agree that the same rules should apply to a British citizen and to a citizen of an EU country residing in the UK, who both wish to bring a non-EU spouse to the UK. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that these rules had now been accepted by EU partners and we welcome the Prime Minister’s achievements.

66.We note that the minimum income threshold rules have been challenged in the courts, that the most recent decision in the Court of Appeal upheld the rules, and that the case is now before the Supreme Court. We remain open to the possibility of holding an inquiry into the minimum income threshold if these developments do not resolve the matter satisfactorily.

67.We have received representations concerning English Language testing. We will consider these matters in our next report.

Appeals and tribunals performance

68.The First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) hears first instance appeals against decisions made by the Home Office on immigration, asylum and nationality matters. The Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) deals with appeals against decisions made by the First-tier Tribunal (IAC). In Q3 2015 there were 2,866 asylum appeals received in the First Tier Tribunal (IAC), down 9% on last year. The number of appeals in the Upper Tribunal (IAC) more than doubled, increasing by 128% between Q3 2014 to Q3 2015.68

First Tier Tribunals

Worse performance

Staff numbers

69.In Q3 2015, there were 11,641 full time equivalent staff working in UK Visas and Immigration and Immigration Enforcement. This is a 2% reduction from 11,879 staff in the previous quarter.

Staffing total within the immigration directorates Q3 2015

Staffing Total (FTE)

Civil servants (FTE)

Agency (FTE)

Other (FTE)






Immigration Enforcement





Border and immigration cross cutting data, November 2015

MPs’ correspondence

The chart below shows the proportion of MPs’ emails and enquiries made via the MPs’ inquiry line which were responded to within the target time.

MPs’ correspondence

Response to emails

Improved performance

Response to MPs’ inquiry line

Worse performance

1 Work related visas include various different Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa categories. The total for Tier 4 study visas does not include student visitor visas. Family related visas include partners/spouse, children and other dependants. Other category includes student visitors

2 “Un-input cases” are cases received in the business area which have not been entered on to the computer system.

3 Ninth Report of Session 2014-15, The work of the Immigration Directorates (January-June 2014), HC 712; Second Report of Session 2015-16, The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q2 2015), HC 512

4 Temporary and permanent migration data, February 2016, Table InC_05

5 Temporary and permanent migration data, February 2016, Table InC_02

6 Sponsorship transparency data, November 2015, Table SP2

7 Sponsorship transparency data, November 2015, Table SP5

8 Sponsorship transparency data, November 2015, Table SP8

11 Immigration Statistics, July to September 2015, Asylum applications and initial decisions for main applicants and dependants, Asylum table as 02 q

12 Immigration Statistics, July to September 2015, Asylum applications and initial decisions for main applicants and dependants, Asylum table as 02 q

13 Eighteenth Report of Session 2014-15, The work of the immigration directorates: Calais, HC 902; The work of the immigration directorates (October – December 2013) HC 237

14 Oral evidence taken before the Committee on 1 April 2014, Q 115

16 Q150 9 February 2016

17 Qq150-151 9 February 2016

18 Home Office Immigration Statistics, Asylum tables, as_01_q. Q2 2015, 902 initial decisions resulting in 303 grants of protection.

19 The March guidance has since been updated: see Country Information and Guidance, Eritrea: Illegal Exit, September 2015

21 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in Eritrea, June 2015

22 Report by the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information on Eritrea Country Information and Guidance Reports produced by the UK Home Office, May 2015.

23 National Statistics, Asylum, Support provided to asylum seekers, November 2015, Table as_17_q: Asylum seekers in receipt of Section 95 support, by country of nationality and UK region

28 Qq28-30 26 January 2016

29 Q4 26 January 2016

30 Asylum Seekers: Middlesbrough HC Deb, 20 January 2016, col 1425

31 Q37 9 February 2016, Q45 26 January 2016

32 Qq6-7 26 January 2016

33 Asylum Seekers: Middlesbrough HC Deb, 20 January 2016, col 1425

34 Qq155-56 26 January 2016

35 Q161 9 February 2016

37 Q 219 9 February 2016

38 Qq167-168 9 February 2016

39 Q134 26 January 2016 and ACC0006

41 Qq193-194 9 February 2016

44 See, for example, Red mark of shame opens door to attacks on asylum seekers, The Times, 20 January 2016

45 Q207 9 February 2016

46 Q53 9 February 2016

47 Qq52-54 9 February 2016

48 Qq37-39 9 February 2016, Q43 9 February 2016, Q132 26 January 2016, Q134 26 January 2016.

49 Q43 9 February 2016

50 Q44 9 February 2016

51 Qq167-168 9 February 2016

52 Q48 9 February 2016

53 Q51 9 February 2016

54 See Annexes 1 and 2 to this report

55 ID30002. Q108 26 January 2016

56 Qq107-108 26 January 2016

57 Qq48-49 9 February 2016

58 Q236 9 February 2016

59 Qq171-173 9 February 2016

60 Q175 9 February 2016

61 Syria: refugees and counter-terrorism - Prime Minister’s statement, 7 September 2015; and Q95 [Harrington] 13 October 2015

62 HC Deb 28 Jan 2016 Col 14WS Unaccompanied Refugee Children

63 Q89 9 February 2016

65 The criteria are: to live in another EU country for at least three months and create or strengthen family life while living there

66 Q146 9 February 2016

67 European Council, 18-19 February 2016, Conclusions, page 21

69 Asylum transparency data, November 2015, Table ARR_1: Appeal Representation Rates

70 Customer service operations data, November 2015, Table MP_4

71 Customer service operations data, November 2015, Table MP_5

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 2 March 2016