The Guardian: Home Office presenting officers set 70% target for asylum appeals
14 January 2014
Home Office presenting officers have been set a target of winning 70 per cent of Tribunal cases in which asylum seekers are appealing against government decisions that they should leave the UK, the Guardian reported today.
In addition, the Guardian reports that Home Office presenting officers and case owners are incentivised by Home Office reward schemes.
The rewards are said to include gift vouchers for high street shops, cash bonuses and extra holidays.
The Guardian says it obtained the information under freedom of information laws.
The Home Office confirmed to the Guardian that vouchers for £25 or £50 for high street shops were handed out to "recognise positive performance over a short period of time", such as officers exceeding their casework targets for a month.
Emma Mlotshwa, coordinator of Medical Justice, called the revelation "deeply disturbing".
The Guardian article quoted James Packer of Duncan Lewis solicitors as saying: "The Home Office expects its officials to win a specific number of appeals and can reward them if they exceed their 'target'. This is a clear incentive to bad practices. I am especially dismayed to discover that a mandatory success rate of 70% applies in asylum appeals where people's lives are at stake. We believe these measures are unlawful as well as immoral and have written to the Home Office making it clear that we will bring a legal challenge unless these incentives are withdrawn."
Immigration Minister Mark Harper was quoted by the Guardian as saying no vouchers had been issued purely for winning cases.
In December, Colin Yeo highlighted a Parliamentary answer by Mark Harper on Garden Court's Free Movement blog.
The answer from 16th December stated:
No vouchers have ever been issued to presenting officers purely for winning cases at the immigration tribunals.
Since July 2012, 11 vouchers have been issued to presenting officers as a one-off recognition of individual performance at court. However, presenting officers' performance is assessed equally by reference to other relevant factors that include the quality of preparation and advocacy.
The vouchers in question are valued at £25 each, and can be redeemed in a range of outlets. The total cost of these awards is thus £275.
Presenting officers' performance is managed in accordance with the same performance management policy that applies to all Home Office staff. Where an officer's overall performance is judged to be unsatisfactory, the Home Office's poor performance procedure may be instigated.
A Home Office spokeperson told the Guardian that the "success of officers in upholding asylum decisions" was only one of a range of criteria used to monitor staff performance. The Guardian says that it is understood officers are also judged on the effectiveness of their presentation, the strength of their cases and their compliance with official guidelines before getting rewards.