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Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration releases ten new reports

Date of Publication: 
14 July 2017

Country of origin information, citizenship character requirement for young persons among report topics

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration releases ten new reports

14 July 2017

It's been a busy week for the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration with no less than ten reports released on Wednesday and Thursday.

The reports released are as follows:

You can access the Home Office's response to each report from here.

In his report on country of origin information, the Chief Inspector found that the Home Office needs to distinguish more clearly between what is country information and what is policy in the 'Guidance' section of its Country Policy and Information Notes (CPINs). In particular, the Chief Inspector said the CPINs 'Policy Summary' should not make selective use of country information to validate a policy position on the likely strength of asylum or humanitarian claims.

The report on the Home Office's application of the good character requirement in the case of young persons who apply for registration as British citizens found that "over the period 2014 to 2016, around 95% of applications from minors for registration as British citizens were granted. Over the same period, failure to satisfy the good character requirement was recorded by the Home Office as the primary reason for refusal in 133 cases (2.55% of all refusals)."

The Chief Inspector stated: "The inspection found that Home Office policy had tightened in relation to the good character requirement since December 2012, so that young persons were now subject to the same guidance as adults. In part, this was in response to a recommendation from the Inspectorate's 2014 Nationality Casework inspection. However, the unintended consequence of the latter was that lengthy bans from applying for citizenship imposed on anyone found to be not of good character prevented some young persons from applying and being considered while still a minor."

The Chief Inspector found in his re-inspection report on the internal Home Office administrative review (AR) process: "the handling of in-country ARs had improved considerably, but progress with overseas and 'at the border' ARs had been slower. Six recommendations could be considered completely 'closed'. However, the Home Office was not yet able to demonstrate that it had delivered an efficient, effective and cost-saving replacement for the previous appeals mechanisms. This was made more difficult because ARs are split across three business areas, and the Home Office should consider appointing a senior responsible owner for the overall system of ARs to ensure consistency and benefits realisation."

The re-inspection report of the complaints handling process of the three Home Office immigration and borders directorates found that: "complaints handling by the UK Visas and Immigration Central Correspondence Team, and by Immigration Enforcement's Detention Services Customer Service Unit, had improved. Both had made significant changes to their processes in line with my Recommendations. Border Force, however, had a good deal more work to do to bring its complaints handling up to the required level of performance."

On the Tier 4 curtailment process, the Chief Inspector said: "The Home Office has made progress in a number of areas, for example improving communication with sponsors and quality assuring the sifting out of notifications. But, overall, there is a good deal more work required to achieve the improvements that the original report and recommendations identified were needed, and the Home Office has to ensure that this work is properly prioritised and the necessary resources made available to deliver these improvements."

The report on Border Force operations at east coast seaports attracted some media coverage, such as here on BBC News and here in the Guardian.

The Chief Inspector stated in the report: "The inspection found that Border Force, given the practicalities, was generally efficient and effective in managing the fixed immigration control points at the major seaports, and in dealing on an intelligence-led basis with vehicle and freight arrivals. By contrast, coverage of smaller ports, harbours and marinas was poor. The numbers of clandestine arrivals identified by Border Force at east coast ports had indeed increased, and Border Force was dealing appropriately with individuals, whether they claimed asylum or agreed to be removed immediately. The overall sense was that Border Force was stretched, in some instances too thinly, but coping."

The inspection report on Gatwick South found that Border Force was performing well for managing passenger queues at the immigration controls, but it was overly reliant on mobile and seasonal staff to maintain this level of performance. Overall, Border Force operations at Gatwick were found to be under considerable strain, especially in customs work.

The re-inspection report on family reunion applications found that Istanbul had improved its handling of family reunion applications, but the report added: "However, in two areas there appeared to have been little movement. These were access to interpreters to enable interviews of applicants to clarify points of detail, and the commissioning and funding of DNA tests. Interviews and DNA evidence have the potential to tip the 'balance of probabilities' argument, but the Home Office's default position still seemed to be to refuse applications rather than to defer a decision to obtain best evidence, which was inefficient and could be traumatic for applicants."

Finally, the most important finding from the inspection of entry clearance processing operations in Croydon and Istanbul was that "first-line quality assurance of decisions and decision notices needed to improve, especially in Croydon, which had operated for many months with a significant shortfall in Entry Clearance Managers (ECMs). In order to achieve its 'world class customer service' mission statement, UKVI needed to ensure that DMCs [Decision Making Centres] had sufficient ECMs, with the required experience and skills, not just to identify and correct errors but to provide decision makers with regular, constructive feedback, so that the quality of initial decisions would be continuously improved."