Improvements Made in Handling of Legacy Asylum Cases but Further Work Required
June 26, 2013
The handling of legacy asylum and migration cases by the former UK Border Agency had improved in the three months since November 2012, but there were still issues that needed to be addressed. These were the findings of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration following his investigation into the progress made on legacy asylum and migration cases.
In his November 2012 report on the handling of legacy asylum and migration cases the Chief Inspector found a number of serious failings:
• the Case Audit and Assurance Unit was overwhelmed with unresolved casework;
• security checks had not been undertaken routinely or consistently since April 2011;
• cases had been archived without checks with other government departments or financial institutions having being undertaken to trace applicants, contrary to assurances given to Parliament;
• there were poor levels of customer service and the inadequate implementation of a policy change which adversely impacted applicants.
As a result the Home Secretary asked the Chief Inspector to conduct a follow up investigation into the operation of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit. This investigation took place between January-March 2013.
The Chief Inspector found there had been some improvements. For example:
• governance had improved in a number of areas, including management information
• management and staff demonstrated a strong commitment to this work going forward
• resources had been increased to tackle some of the challenges identified in the previous legacy inspection report
• a national quality assurance framework was being introduced into legacy casework
• caseworkers were correctly following relevant policies and guidance when making decisions to grant or refuse leave on live cases
• CAAU had been renamed as the Older Live Cases Unit which more appropriately describes its purpose.
However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find:
• there were some cases where the information contained in paper files was not being used to trace applicants. Ministers were not specifically informed that the proposed closure criteria to be used for legacy cases did not include the risks associated with not examining paper files;
• the Agency had not reviewed Police National Computer (PNC) information, either to obtain addresses for 3,077 positive matches, or to take any action in relation to 'maybe' matches. By not using PNC data in this way the Agency missed an opportunity to identify and locate applicants;
• work had not yet commenced on archived cases and active reviews that had been reopened as a result or positive data matching results.
The Chief Inspector made FOUR recommendations to the Home Office, which included, publishing a realistic and achievable timescale within which legacy asylum and migration cases would be completed, and prioritising the implementation of all outstanding recommendations from his November 2012 report.
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine, CBE QPM, said:
"I was pleased to find that there was progress made against my recommendations in the November 2012 report. The improvements in governance of management information and resources were positive, and the introduction of the national quality assurance framework is encouraging.
However, there were still a number of cases where there was information contained in paper files which could have been used to trace applicants. I believe the Home Office needs to demonstrate to applicants, Parliament and the public that it has taken all reasonable action to identify whether individuals remain in the UK illegally.
While action had been taken to reopen archived cases following positive data matching results, I was concerned that no work had actually started on them. This was also true of active reviews.
The Home Office will now need to ensure that these cases are afforded priority and publish a realistic and achievable timescale for the completion of all legacy asylum and migration cases."