The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q4 2015) Contents

3Asylum cases

New applications

39.In 2015 there were 32,414 asylum applications from main applicants, an increase of 29% from the 25,033 applications received in 2014.40 This is the highest number of applications since 2004 but considerably below the peak of 84,132 applications in 2002. Including dependants, the number of asylum applications increased by 20% from 32,344 in 2014 to 38,878 in 2015 (around 1 dependant for every 5 main applicants).41 In 2015 the UK received the ninth highest number of asylum applications in the EU, and it ranked 17th in terms of number of applications per head of population.42 The table below shows the number of applications received, initial decisions for main applicants made and protection granted, for 2015 and previous years.

Table 12: 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%

-

* 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.

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

40.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. Chart 2 shows the number of initial decisions made each quarter against the number of applications for asylum from main applicants and their dependants.

Chart 2: Asylum applications and initial decisions for main applicants and dependents by quarter

Chart showing asylum applications and initial decisions from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_01q

41.We are concerned that following a concerted effort by UKVI at the beginning of 2015 to address the high number of applications pending an initial decision, by the end of 2015 the number of initial decisions being made is once again being far outstripped by the number of applications received (see chart 2). When workflow is under control applications would be expected to slightly exceed the number of decisions but when there is a backlog of cases the reverse must occur if that backlog is to be addressed.

42.Chart 3 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.

Chart 3: Asylum applications pending initial decision and further review

Chart showing asylum applications pending initial decisions and review from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_01q

Worse performance

43.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. The number of cases pending an initial decision within six months rose during the course of 2015, from 11,269 in Q4 2014 to 17,287 by Q4 2015, reflecting the increase in the overall number of applications and despite UKVI making over 12,000 more decisions in 2015 as it did in the previous year.43

Improved performance

Worse performance

The available data do not allow us to judge whether UKVI is meeting its service standards of processing straightforward cases within six months and non-straightforward cases within 12 months as no such breakdown is provided.

44.We welcome UKVI’s achievement in greatly reducing the number of asylum applications where a decision has been pending for more than six months. However, over the same period, there has been a sharp rise in asylum cases requiring further review. The Home Office must explain the reasons for this rise. We also remind the Home Office of our recommendation from our Q2 2015 Report that they should publish their service standards for making an initial decision and its performance against them, for both straightforward and non-straightforward asylum cases, which they have so far failed to do.

45.UKVI is in danger of being overwhelmed by the extent of its asylum casework. The second half of 2015 saw the highest number of applications for asylum since 2003 and as a result the number of cases pending a decision is at its highest ever level. The ongoing migration crisis in Europe suggests that the pressures on UKVI will get worse. We need to process asylum applications as efficiently as possible, not least to prevent pressures building up elsewhere in the system, including in the demand for asylum accommodation. When the number of asylum applications increases, as it did in 2015, more staff should be allocated to dealing with asylum cases to ensure that UKVI can meet its own service standards.

Nationality of new applicants for asylum

46.World events are a key driver of asylum applications as evidenced by the ongoing flows of migrants arriving in Europe from the crisis in Syria. The number of applicants from Syria has increased year-on-year since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. However, in 2015, the largest number of applications for asylum in the UK came from nationals of Eritrea (3,729), reflecting the human rights situation there.45

47.The table below shows the number of applications from the most common nationalities applying for asylum and the proportion of decisions that resulted in some form of protection being granted.46

Table 13: Common nationalities for asylum claims and percentage of initial decisions granting some form of protection (decisions may not relate to applications in the same year)

Total number of applications
(% of decisions in favour of granting protection)

Country

2012

2013

2014

2015

Eritrea

728 (83%)

1,387 (82%)

3,233 (87%)

3,279 (48%)

Iran

2,259 (53%)

2,410 (55%)

2,000 (55%)

3,248 (54%)

Sudan

636 (73%)

743 (73%)

1,449 (79%)

2,918 (84%)

Syria

988 (78%)

1,648 (85%)

2,025 (88%)

2,609 (85%)

Pakistan

3,280 (15%)

3,359 (22%)

2,726 (20%)

2,441 (21%)

Afghanistan

1,008 (33%)

1,038 (33%)

1,139 (34%)

2,240 (35%)

Albania

819 (36%)

1,325 (31%)

1,576 (23%)

1,504 (24%)

Iraq

275 (25%)

310 (30%)

588 (31%)

2,185 (20%)

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

World events and geopolitics will be a key driver behind the chances of applications succeeding as well the number of applications being made in total. While it may be possible to use the data on asylum applications to draw general conclusions about the safety and security of people in particular countries and whether the situation has improved or worsened over recent years, one should not rely on such statistics alone. For example, in 2015 only 48% of decisions on applications for asylum from Eritrean nationals resulted in protection being granted compared with 87% in 2014. Relying on the data alone, this could suggest that the situation in Eritrea had improved markedly over the course of a year. However, as we set out in our Q3 Report, the work of the UN in Eritrea suggests that such improvement is still pending. The reduction in the number of asylum applications granted was a result of the UK Government changing its guidance on Eritrea. In our Q3 Report we also noted that the Independent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information (IAGCI) had raised serious concerns about the UK Government’s changes to its country guidance.47

48.The number of applications for asylum from Eritrea in 2015 was the highest recorded. The number of appeals lodged by Eritrean nationals also rose, from 172 in 2014 to 1,718 in 2015. 80% of appeals by Eritrean nationals determined in 2015 were allowed, an increase from the 44% allowed in the previous year.

49.The high number of successful appeals against asylum decisions in respect of Eritrean nationals raises serious questions over the approach taken by the Home Office and the country guidance produced by the UK Government. We repeat the recommendation from our Report on Q3 2015 and call on the Government to reconsider its country guidance on Eritrea as a matter of urgency.

Syrian Vulnerable Persons and ‘children at risk’ resettlement programmes

50.In our Report on Q2 2015 we set out the background to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme, initiated in January 2014 and then expanded on 7 September 2015 following the Prime Minister’s statement that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament.48 On 21 April 2016 the Government announced that the UK would provide an additional resettlement route to the UK specifically for ‘children at risk’ from the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. The scheme would be aimed at unaccompanied children and separated children (those separated from their parents and/or other family members) as well as other vulnerable children such as child carers and those facing the risk of child labour, child marriage or other forms of neglect, abuse or exploitation. 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.49

51.The ‘children at risk’ scheme is not intended to provide assistance to children who have already left the MENA region and entered Europe. On 4 May 2016 the Prime Minister announced that unaccompanied children who were already in Europe and had entered before 20 March 2016 would also be eligible for resettlement to the UK.50 The Government has not confirmed how many unaccompanied children from Europe will be resettled. The Government currently includes progress with the Syrian Vulnerable Persons resettlement programme within the quarterly release of immigration statistics. We recommend that progress with the schemes to resettle ‘children at risk’ both from outside Europe and from France, Greece and Italy, as well as those resettled for family reunion reasons, be similarly included in the statistical release.

52.The Table below gives the number of Syrians resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme since it started in January 2014.

Table 14: 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

Total

1,337

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_19q

In the first two years of the Scheme the Government has managed to resettle 1,337 Syrians. Its target is 20,000 by the end of this Parliament. As we have set out in previous Reports, we remain concerned about the Government’s ability to increase its capacity sufficiently to resettle such a number of refugees to this timescale. In particular, we would be keen to hear what progress has been made in implementing a scheme for private sponsorship of refugees, which the Home Secretary announced in October 2015. Furthermore, in an oral hearing in March we presented the Home Secretary with evidence of unfit housing conditions that some asylum seekers are currently having to endure.51 While this accommodation was provided under the COMPASS contracts rather than the Vulnerable Persons Scheme, this has only served to increase our concerns about the Government’s ability to fulfil its pledge to resettle thousands of people fleeing the conflict in Syria, We intend to undertake an inquiry into the quality of asylum accommodation as a matter of priority and accommodation provided to those resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme will be included in that inquiry. We will also be assessing the levels of support provided for refugees who come to the UK independently of recognised gateways compared to those resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Scheme.

‘Take charge’ requests under the Dublin Convention

53.We also wish to see greater transparency in relation to ‘take charge’ requests submitted under the Dublin regulations. Such requests are submitted where it is considered more appropriate for an asylum claim made in another EU country to be processed in the UK, on the basis that the person seeking asylum has family connections here. In the case of ZAT v The Secretary of State, one of the reasons given by the Tribunal for ordering the Government to admit seven applicants from the Calais camp under article 8 ECHR was the protracted time involved in making and processing requests under the Dublin Convention (para 55). The charity Citizens UK have identified 157 unaccompanied children living in the camp at Calais with close family members in the UK, who could benefit from the Dublin rules and take charge requests.

54.In oral evidence in March the Home Secretary told us that the processing times for take charge requests had been “significantly reduced” and indicated she would provide more detail in writing—but no such detail has been provided. During debate on the Immigration Bill (on 25 April), the Immigration Minister told the House in relation to young people in Calais and northern France that “in the past six weeks over 50 cases have been identified, 24 of which have been accepted for transfer to the UK from France under the Dublin family unity provisions, and more than half of them have already arrived in the UK”. However, Written Questions about the numbers of take charge requests received, the decisions made, and the time taken to process requests, are routinely answered with a statement that data is not held in a way that allows it to be reported on automatically and is therefore not available.

55.Given the significance of the issue, we recommend that information on “take charge” requests received from other EU states under the Dublin Convention is included in the statistical release—including information on the number of requests from each country, the number that involve children, the length of time taken to make decisions on such requests, and the number of requests that are accepted and rejected.

Unaccompanied children: expiration of discretionary leave

56.At the same time as the UK Government is pledging to resettle thousands of unaccompanied children from the Middle East it is actively removing to those countries individuals whose discretionary leave to remain in the UK, granted when they were unaccompanied children, has expired as they have reached adulthood. Hundreds of young men and women who, in many cases, have spent their formative years in the UK and who have integrated into UK society are being returned to countries they have little memory of and whose security is open to question, without any family networks to support them.

Table 15: Former unaccompanied children returned to the Middle East and North Africa since 201052

Removed in year

Afghanistan

Iran

Iraq

Libya

Syria

2010

321

9

69

-

-

2011

433

4

57

-

1

2012

234

4

64

1

-

2013

269

3

72

1

-

2014

154

2

38

1

-

2015

57

6

22

-

-

Total

1,468

28

322

3

1

57.In March 2016 the Court of Appeal overturned an injunction imposed last year which temporarily halted returns to Afghanistan amid concerns the country was too dangerous. We note that the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan report that the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2015 was the highest that mission has recorded and that the Afghan Government has urged against the return of the former child asylum seekers. The Home Office welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeal but said that every case would be treated on its merits.53

58.Unaccompanied asylum seeking children resettled in the UK have every right to expect that the UK will offer them protection. It is important that individuals are not removed to countries that are known to be unsafe when they reach 18 years of age, particularly people who have become ‘westernised’ during their time in the UK and who lack support networks in the country to which they are deported. The Government should reconsider its approach to dealing with former unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The welfare of the individual must be the overriding concern, bearing in mind that they are individuals who have already suffered and that their anxiety will only be exacerbated by an extended period of uncertainty about their future on reaching their 18th birthday.

Asylum and immigration caseload

Work in progress

59.The Home Office provides an annual snapshot of work in progress at a particular time (see Tables 16 and 17 below). As Table 16 shows, a proportion of applications will be awaiting the outcome of an initial decision or appeal or be subject to removal action. In Q2 2015 almost 26,000 cases 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.

Table 16: Annual snapshot of asylum work in progress by stage of process

2011 Q2

2012 Q2

2013 Q2

2014 Q2

2015 Q2

Awaiting initial decision

4,851

6,192

8,980

16,980

11,797

Appeal outstanding

5,553

4,706

4,328

3,317

8,966

Subject to removal action*

24,738

23,497

23,438

20,869

23,571

Further leave application outstanding

2,761

2,986

2,724

2,953

2,802

Post decision

-

-

-

1,432

2,083

On hold**

-

-

-

10,275

11,223

Total work in progress

37,903

37,381

39,470

55,814

60,442

* The Subject to Removal Action figure demonstrates that the majority of cases in the work in progress caseload have been processed through the initial stages of the asylum system and are now ‘subject to removal action’. Whilst some cases in this category await imminent removal, for many there will be significant barriers to removal which the department is still working to overcome. Such barriers include: Difficulties in obtaining documents from national governments; dealing with last minute legal challenges; and logistical and practical challenges in removing families in a humane and dignified fashion.

** The methodology for work in progress was amended in April 2014, to count reapplications and pre-decision absconders within the total work in progress numbers. Under the new methodology, the new ‘On Hold’ sub-category includes pre- and post-decision absconders (the latter was previously counted within other sub-categories; the former was not counted). The ‘Post Decision’ sub-category includes cases that have had a decision but have not appealed, are not appeal rights exhausted, and have not been removed.

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016, Table ASY_3

Table 17: Annual snapshot of asylum work in progress by age of case

2011 Q2

2012 Q2

2013 Q2

2014 Q2

2015 Q2

Case Age 0–12 Mths

10,315

11,516

12,659

16,922

17,403

Case Age 12–24 Mths

7,088

6,477

6,822

9,907

9,379

Case Age 24–36 Mths

9,262

5,407

4,939

6,709

7,670

Case Age +36 Mths

11,238

13,981

15,050

22,276

25,990

Total work in progress

37,903

37,381

39,470

55,814

60,442

Source: UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016, Table ASY_3

Outcomes

60.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 18 below). These ratios have been generally consistent over the last five years.54Table 18: 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

61.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 for 2015 shows that:

62.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.56 In Q4 2015 the Home Office provided representation to 97% of First Tribunal hearings and 100% of Upper Tribunal hearings.57

Legacy casework

63.In 2006, the Home Office carried out a programme of work to resolve legacy asylum cases. This took 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).

64.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 that remained in the controlled archive (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

Worse performance

Chart 4: Asylum cases in the Older Live Cases Unit

Chart showing asylum cases in the Older Live Cases Unit from the firts quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

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

Chart 5: Legacy asylum conclusions and new cases

Chart showing legacy asylum conclusions and new cases from the first quarter of 2013 to the last quarter of 2015

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

65.We are disappointed that far fewer legacy asylum cases were concluded in 2015, compared with previous years. The Home Office must explain why the rate of cases being concluded has reduced, and what the overall target is for clearing the remaining backlog.

66.At the end of Q4 2015, 49% of all legacy asylum applications concluded had been granted leave to remain, 22% were removed and 28% were found to be duplicates.58

Chart 6: Legacy asylum conclusions

Chart showing legacy asylum conclusions (Deceased, Duplicate, Removal, Grant) from the first quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

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

Legacy immigration issues

Worse performance

Chart 7: Legacy migration conclusions and new cases

Chart showing legacy migration conclusions and new cases (Concluded, Entered) from the second quarter of 2014 to the last quarter of 2015

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

67.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.

Chart 8: Legacy immigration conclusions

Chart showing legacy immigration conclusions (Deceased, Duplicate, Removal, Grant) from the second quarter of 2012 to the last quarter of 2015

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

68.By the end of Q4 2015, 6,661 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.61 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 2015.62

Grants of Settlement

69.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 89,932 grants of settlement in 2015, the lowest number in the last 10 years. 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 2 to 5 years.

Chart 9: Grants of settlement

Chart showing grants of settlement (Employment, Asylum, Family formation and reunion, other) from the first quarter of  2012 to the last quarter of 2015

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table SE_01


40 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table AS_01

41 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table AS_02

42 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Summary

43 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table AS_02

44 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Table AS_02

45 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, Asylum

46 Success rate is based on the number of initial decisions in a given year that resulted in some form of protection being granted and excludes grants on appeal.

47 Home Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2015–16, The work of the Immigration Directorates (Q3 2015), HC 772

48 Second Report, Session 2015–16, Work of the Immigration Directorates Q2 2015, HC 512, paras 22-30

49 Written statement by the Minister for Immigration, 21 April 2016, HCWS687

50 Announced during Prime Ministers Questions. 20th March 2016 is the date of the agreement between the EU and Turkey on returning migrants to Turkey who have entered the EU illegally.

51 Oral evidence taken on the Work of the Home Secretary, 23 March 2016, HC 299, Qs229-235

52 Written question 13206, answered on 25 November 2015 and corrected on 9 February 2016 http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015–10-23/13206/

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

55 Home Office, Immigration Statistics, February 2016, AS_14q

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

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

58 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

59 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

60 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02

61 UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum transparency data, February 2016 (and previous releases), Table OLCU_02




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27 May 2016