The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q1 2016) Contents

3Asylum cases

22.In Q1 2016 there were 8,288 asylum applications from main applicants, a reduction of 18% from the 10,100 applications received in the previous quarter but a 39% increase on the 5,955 applications received in Q1 2015.17 Including dependants, the number of asylum applications reduced from 11,830 in Q4 2015 to 10,138 in Q1 2016.18 When considering asylum applications per head of population, the UK ranked 17th in Europe for the year to March 2016. The table below shows the number of applications received, initial decisions for main applicants made and protection granted, for 2015 and previous years.

Table 9: Asylum applications and decisions for main applications

Year

Total applications

Total Initial decisions

Granted some form of protection*

Granted as a % of initial decisions

2012

21,843

16,774

6,059

36%

2013

23,584

17,543

6,542

37%

2014

25,033

19,782

8,150

41%

2015

32,414

28,950

11,419

39%

Percentage change on previous year

+29%

+46%

+40%

-

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, May 2016, Table AS_01

* Granted includes grants of asylum, humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, leave to remain under family life or private life rules, leave outside the rules and UASC leave.

23.The Government has committed to providing a decision within six months to all straightforward asylum claims made after 1 April 2014 and within a year for all cases considered to be ‘non-straightforward’. The charts below show UKVI’s performance in meeting these standards. Figure 4 shows the number of initial decisions made each quarter against the number of applications for asylum from main applicants and their dependants.

Figure 4: Asylum applications and initial decisions for main applicants and dependants by quarter

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, AS_02q

24.Q1 2016 continues the trend of the number of applications received outstripping the number of decisions made. As we set out in our previous Report, this means that the volume of casework in progress by UKVI is growing. Figure 5 below shows the number of cases pending a decision. Apart from a brief dip in the first half of 2015, the number of cases where an initial decision is pending or a further review is required has grown steadily since 2012.

Figure 5: Asylum applications from main applicants and their dependants pending initial decision and further review

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, AS_02q

Worse performance

25.The Home Office breaks down applications pending a decision into three categories: those that have been pending for less than six months, for more than six months and those pending further review. There has been a slight fall in the number of cases pending an initial decision within six months from 17,287 in Q4 2015 to 17,173 in Q1 2016, though it is still higher than it was a year ago in Q1 2015 (12,586).19

Worse performance

Improved performance

26.The available data do not allow us to judge whether UKVI is meeting its service standards of processing straightforward asylum cases within six months and non-straightforward cases within 12 months as no such breakdown is provided. There is little point in having service standards if the information is published in such a way that does not allow UKVI’s performance to be judged against them. The data must be published in a way that allows such scrutiny.

27.The number of outstanding asylum applications is at an all-time high. Despite repeated warnings from this Committee the Home Office has done nothing to address this situation and it must set out what steps it is taking to tackle this concern.

Asylum accommodation

28.The increase in the number of people claiming asylum puts pressure across the system from the administration of applications to the provision of accommodation. Since the implementation of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 a system of dispersal has been effected in the housing of asylum seekers in order to ease the impact on the south east of England. Dispersal accommodation is located in particular areas in the country where the local authority has agreed to take asylum seekers up to a defined cluster limit (defined as an assumption that there will be no more than one asylum seeker per 200 residents, based on the 2001 census figures for population). Not all local authorities currently participate, putting pressure on those that do and on the system as a whole. A map showing participation levels amongst local authorities is annexed to this report. We consider this issue in more detail in our forthcoming report on the migration crisis. We discuss the specific issue of accommodation for Syrian refugees later in this Chapter.

Nationality of new applicants for asylum

29.World events are a key driver of asylum applications and whether those applications are accepted is based on Home Office country information and guidance. To produce the guidance the Home Office uses a range of sources such as local, national and international organisations, including human rights organisations, information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, trusted media outlets and Home Office fact-finding missions to the countries concerned. Table 10 sets out the most common nationalities applying for asylum and the success rate of applications and Table 11 shows the number of decisions that are appealed and the success rate of those appeals. In Q1 2016, the largest number of applications for asylum in the UK came from nationals of Iran (1,492), continuing a trend from Q4 2015. A third of applications from nationals of Iran were granted.

Table 10: Common nationalities for asylum claims and percentage of initial decisions granting some form of protection (decisions may not relate to applications in the same quarter)

Q2 2015

Q3 2015

Q4 2015

Q1 2016

Afghanistan

414 (35%)

749 (34%)

794 (31%)

489 (36%)

Albania

354 (31%)

382 (19%)

406 (23%)

369 (31%)

Bangladesh

192 (11%)

285 (10%)

419 (10%)

500 (5%)

Eritrea

759 (34%)

1,385 (39%)

887 (47%)

290 (69%)

India

209 (0%)

294 (3%)

354 (1%)

388 (0%)

Iran

484 (59%)

863 (50%)

1,466 (41%)

1,492 (35%)

Iraq

231 (22%)

632 (18%)

1,111 (12%)

831 (12%)

Nigeria

188 (16%)

222 (16%)

250 (13%)

303 (11%)

Pakistan

483 (20%)

746 (18%)

677 (18%)

763 (16%)

Syria

384 (88%)

790 (88%)

911 (84%)

454 (85%)

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_01_q

Table 11: Asylum appeal applications and determinations by common country of nationality

Appeals received

Appeals determined

Appeals granted

Success rate

Afghanistan

232

107

48

45%

Albania

157

142

40

28%

Bangladesh

178

94

19

20%

Eritrea

114

288

247

86%

India

42

14

1

7%

Iran

356

124

64

52%

Iraq

387

77

32

42%

Nigeria

83

67

16

24%

Pakistan

317

185

64

35%

Syria

34

34

12

35%

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table as_14_q

30.In Q1 2016, 86% of appeals from Eritrean nationals were successful, far more than for other nationalities. This suggests to us that the Home Office country guidance for Eritrea was wrong and applications for asylum from Eritrean nationals have been incorrectly refused. The Refugee Council told us that:

Not only does this cost the taxpayer money in defending indefensible decisions in the courts and providing asylum support to applicants unable to work whilst awaiting a decision, but it also has an immeasurable impact on those who have come to the UK to seek protection from a regime the UN has said is guilty of “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”.21

The Home Office has confirmed that it is updating its guidance on Eritrea in light of the recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information (IAGCI).22 It will publish the revised guidance in due course. We note that the number of Eritrean nationals who have been waiting for an initial decision for more than six months has increased from 223 in Q4 2015 to 882 cases in Q1 2016.23

31.This is the third consecutive Report in which we have commented on the approach of the Home Office to asylum-seeking Eritreans. It is unacceptable that the Home Office is still getting so many of its decisions regarding nationals of this country wrong. This raises wider concerns over the Home Office’s country guidance, particularly in the period between the Home Office acknowledging that its guidance is incorrect and revised guidance being implemented. Decisions made in this period, as the situation with Eritreans has shown, can result in foreign nationals being repatriated to countries the Home Office knows to be unsafe or has concerns over—which is unacceptable—or appeals clogging up the courts unnecessarily. When the Home Office has concerns over the accuracy of its country guidance it should suspend decisions until such a time that those concerns have been investigated and, where necessary, revised guidance put in place.

32.We note the high number of appeals from Iranian nationals, more than half of which are successful. The Home Office must explain why such a high proportion of appeals in asylum cases involving Iranian nationals are successful and, if necessary, review its guidance for that country accordingly.

Syrian Vulnerable Persons and ‘children at risk’ resettlement programmes

33.In our Report on Q2 2015 we set out the background to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme, initiated in January 2014 and then expanded in September 2015 following the then Prime Minister’s statement that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament.24 The Table below sets out how many Syrians have been resettled under this scheme.

Table 12: Individuals resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme

Quarter

Number resettled

2014 Q1

13

2014 Q2

37

2014 Q3

40

2014 Q4

53

2015 Q1

44

2015 Q2

29

2015 Q3

36

2015 Q4

1,085

2016 Q1

517

Total

1,854

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, AS_19q

34.The Home Office has indicated that it will seek to ensure an equitable distribution of refugees across the country so that no individual local authority bears a disproportionate share of the burden. It is down to individual local authorities to decide whether to participate in the resettlement scheme. Just 71 local authorities have accepted Syrian refugees in the last six months. A lack of resources and existing pressures on housing and services have been given by some local authorities as reasons for not participating in the scheme.

35.In addition to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme the Government has committed to resettling up to 3,000 ‘children at risk’ from the Middle East and North Africa region and the Immigration Act 2016 includes a commitment to admit an unspecified number of unaccompanied refugee children who have been in Europe since before 20 March 2016.25

36.We remain concerned about the Government’s ability to increase capacity sufficiently to meet its commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, and the separate commitment to resettle thousands of unaccompanied children, which the Government has rightly made. We will explore this issue in more detail in our forthcoming report on the migration crisis.

Family reunion

37.Partners and dependent children of adult refugees in the UK are allowed entry to the UK under family reunion rules. Each of the refugee’s family members must apply for family reunion through the Government’s visa website and have their fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre. Under the programme the UK Government gives people 30 days from the date the visa is granted to arrive in the UK. An investigation by Buzzfeed News found:

The Red Cross has called for the bureaucratic hurdles to be removed:

These are fixable administrative problems, but they can be terribly upsetting and troubling for refugee families. Visas should not be issued with such short-lived entry periods, visas shouldn’t be issued so late the period has nearly expired, and UK embassies should be going out of their way to help those who have been granted visas. These obstacles to protection need to be removed. We hope the Home Office will act soon to remedy these problems.27

38.In response to the Buzzfeed investigation the Home Office explained that the issue of a 30-day entry visa for those coming to the UK for more than six months is the same across all migration routes: “Where an applicant is unable to make arrangements to travel to the UK within the 30 days, the applicant can apply for a replacement 30-day visa to enable them to travel to the UK and collect their biometric residence permit following their arrival.”28

39.The bureaucratic hurdles that are being put in front of refugees after a decision has been made allowing them to enter the UK to be reunited with family members are totally unacceptable, particularly as many of those affected are fleeing conflict and will have already undergone severe hardship. The UK Government should be doing all it can to help people in these circumstances rather than hindering their chance to reach safety. Where an individual receives notification of permission to enter the UK but it arrives too late for transport to be secured, it is ridiculous for that permission to be cancelled and for the process then to have to be restarted. The system must be more flexible.

40.The Refugee Council has drawn our attention to the different treatment of adult and child refugees under the family reunion rules. Children who have travelled to the UK and who have been granted refugee status are not allowed to bring their close family to join them despite having gone through the asylum system in the same way as an adult.29.

41.It seems to us perverse that children who have been granted refugee status in the UK are not then allowed to bring their close family to join them in the same way as an adult would be able to do. The right to live safely with family should apply to child refugees just as it does to adults. The Government should amend the immigration rules to allow refugee children to act as sponsors for their close family.

Asylum applicants granted refugee status

42.Resettled refugees are provided with housing and receive a year of specialist support to help them access the job market and mainstream services. This support is not available for refugees who have achieved that status via the asylum system. Asylum seekers are entitled to financial support and accommodation but these entitlements cease 28 days after notification of being granted refugee status. In 2014 the Refugee Council warned that:

Under the current system, refugees must quickly obtain housing and a means to support and feed themselves and their families but face multiple barriers to doing so with people often waiting for months to be issued the correct documentation to enable them to claim mainstream benefits, find employment and support themselves.30

43.The Refugee Council observed that “It seems perverse that when someone is accepted as in need of protection the state puts them at further risk through bureaucratic failures that can make them homeless and destitute.” In 2016 separate studies by the Red Cross and Refugee Council found that, 28 days after having their claims for asylum accepted, refugees were still struggling to access mainstream benefits. Participants in the Refugee Council study reported having received incorrect and inconsistent advice, and being blocked from making applications even though they were entitled to start the process of claiming welfare benefits.31

44.In order to apply for work, refugees must first receive their Biometric Residence Permit and National Insurance number. Delays in receiving these key identity documents impact on newly recognised refugees’ ability to feed and house themselves once their asylum support is terminated. Without a National Insurance number individuals are unable to seek employment. The Refugee Council is calling on the Government to restore the Refugee Integration and Employment Service. This was designed to help refugees in exactly this situation but was ended in 2011.

45.An amendment was tabled to the Immigration Bill 2015 (now an Act) to extend from 28 to 40 days the period of grace between which refugee status is granted and Home Office support ends. In response, Lord Bates, the then Home Office Minister in the Lords, explained that more evidence was required before it could accept such a proposal. The Minister acknowledged that some newly recognised refugees did not secure access to DWP benefits before their Home Office support ended and that a lack of awareness among DWP staff of the correct processes contributed to this problem. However, he stated that updated guidance and instructions had been issued to DWP front-line staff to address the issue and that a DWP evaluation would be carried out later in 2016. He said that if the DWP study showed that it was necessary to increase the length of the grace period consistently to enable newly recognised refugees to begin to receive the welfare benefits for which they are eligible before their Home Office support ends, “we undertake to return to Parliament with a proposal to amend the regulations to reflect that”.32 Immigration regulations can be amended at any time without primary legislation.

46.Individuals granted asylum in this country must not be forgotten amidst the attention paid to refugees being resettled from the Middle East. They too will have fled abuse, torture and conflict and are equally deserving of the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Evidence from the Refugee Council and others suggests that this support is not always available when it should be, with the result that refugees can find themselves destitute at the moment their need for asylum is recognised. We are aware that the Government has acknowledged this problem and has asked the Department for Work and Pensions to undertake a review of its support to newly recognised refugees. If the study concludes that there is a need for the grace period to be extended then the Government must implement that recommendation swiftly. We will return to this subject as part of our inquiry into asylum accommodation later this year.

Asylum and immigration caseload

Work in progress

47.The Home Office provides an annual snapshot of work in progress at a particular time. The latest available figures are for Q2 2015 and showed that at that time 60,442 applications were in progress, of which almost 26,000 applications had been in progress for more than three years, an increase of over 3,000 on the previous year. Over the same period the number of appeals outstanding had risen from 3,317 in 2014 to 8,956 in 2015. We will consider this issue when updated figures are published next quarter.

Outcomes

48.The Home Office provides analysis of the recorded outcomes of the group of applicants in any one year, at a particular time. For applications made in 2014—the latest cohort for which outcome data are available—74% of decisions to refuse asylum were appealed, of which 30% were appealed successfully (see table below). These ratios have been generally consistent over the last five years.33 Figures for 2015 are expected to be published in August.

Table 13: Outcome of applications

Year

Main applications

Initial decisions

% refused

% of refusals appealed

Appeals successful

Appeals successful %

2010

17,916

15,841

73

80

2,486

29

2011

19,865

17,646

65

79

2,492

30

2012

21,843

18,973

63

74

2,404

31

2013

23,584

20,257

62

73

2,179

29

2014

25,033

20,585

55

74

1,635

32

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_06

49.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. Data show that:

50.The Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) deals with appeals against decisions made by the First Tier Tribunal (IAC). In 2015, 5,609 appeals were determined by the Upper Tribunal with a success rate of around 30% for the appellant.35 In Q1 2016 the Home Office provided representation to 94% of First Tribunal hearings and 100% of Upper Tribunal hearings.36

Legacy Immigration casework

51.In 2006, the Home Office began a programme of work to resolve legacy asylum cases. It covered cases that were received before 5 March 2007 but which UKVI was unable to continue processing. The programme lasted five years and was overseen by the Case Resolution Directorate (CRD). When the CRD closed in March 2011, it handed over 124,000 archive cases (applications where the UK Border Agency had lost contact with the applicant) and 23,000 cases where there were significant barriers to conclusion, to the newly created Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU).

52.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 legacy cases. The 124,000 controlled archive 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. In November 2012 all cases where the applicants could not be traced were closed. In total, 64,600 asylum cases and 15,700 immigration cases were closed; those cases that remained formed the ‘live cohort’ and work to process them is ongoing.

Legacy asylum issues

Improved performance

Figure 6: Asylum cases in the Older Live Cases Unit

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_01

Figure 7: Legacy asylum conclusions and new cases

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

53.At the end of Q1 2016, 49% of all legacy asylum applications concluded had been granted leave to remain, 22% were removed and 28% were found to be duplicates.37

Figure 8: Legacy asylum conclusions

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

Legacy immigration issues

Improved performance

Figure 9: Legacy migration conclusions and new cases

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

54.The chart below shows the number of legacy immigration applications concluded in total in each quarter since Q2 2012 and the outcome of those applications.

Figure 10: Legacy immigration conclusions

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

55.By the end of Q1 2016, 6,756 legacy immigration applications had been concluded. Of these, 45% had been granted leave to remain and 21% of applicants were removed. 34% were found to be duplicates.40 We have previously commented on the high rate of duplicates within the legacy casework and the Government’s explanation can be found in its Response to our Report on Q2 2015.41

56.Progress in concluding cases in the Older Live Cases Unit (OLCU) has slowed over the last 18 months. The caseload of the OLCU is currently shrinking by an average of 250 cases per quarter. At this rate, it will take a further 24 years to clear the backlog of 23,962 outstanding cases, the majority of which date back to before 2007. It is unacceptable that people have had to wait over nine years for a conclusion to their case. The Home Office must explain why, nine years after its creation, the Older Live Cases Unit is still in existence, and when it expects the unit to have concluded its work. Sarah Rapson, the Director General of UK Visas and Immigration promised this Committee that this work would be a priority. Unfortunately she has been unable to live up to her promise. In our next report we expect to see better progress.

Grants of Settlement

57.Settlement or indefinite leave to remain allows foreign nationals to live in the UK without a visa. The Home Office data shows grants of settlement based on employment, asylum, family and other. There were 17,983 grants of settlement in Q1 2016, 12% more than the previous quarter; however this is still 39% less than in Q1 2015. The Chart below shows grants of settlement for each quarter by category, for the last four years. The family formation and reunion category has seen the largest reduction, a fall that can be attributed in part to changes in government policy which, in July 2012, extended the length of time family members had to be in the country before being able to apply for settlement from two to five years.

Figure 11: Grants of settlement

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, Settlement Tables, Q 1 2016, Table SE_02q


17 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_01q

18 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_02q

19 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_02q

20 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_02q

21 Written evidence submitted by the Refugee Council [ID50004]

23 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, January to March 2016, Table AS_02q

24 Home Affairs Committee, Second Report, Session 2015–16, Work of the Immigration Directorates Q2 2015, HC 512, paras 22–30

25 Written statement by the Minister for Immigration, 21 April 2016, HCWS687; The Government has committed to resettling several hundred individuals from the MENA region in the first year with a view to resettling up to 3,000 individuals over the lifetime of this Parliament.

26 Buzzfeed, Refugee Families Are Being Torn Apart By British Bureaucracy, 30 May 2016

27 Buzzfeed, Refugee Families Are Being Torn Apart By British Bureaucracy, 30 May 2016

28 Buzzfeed, Refugee Families Are Being Torn Apart By British Bureaucracy, 30 May 2016

29 Written evidence submitted by the Refugee Council [ID50004]

30 Refugee Council, New refugees face homelessness and destitution, 7 May 2014

31 Refugee Council, England’s forgotten refugees, May 2016; Red Cross, Record number of UK asylum seekers destitute, 13 January 2016

33 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_06; not including appeals to the Upper Tribunal

34 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_14q

35 it is not possible to extrapolate from the data whether the appeal was by the UK Government or the applicant

36 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016, ARR_01

37 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

38 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

39 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

40 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, May 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02




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25 July 2016