The government was just mauled by its own watchdog over how it deals with immigration cases

Home Office immigration
Steve Topple

The government’s Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has issued a damning report on the state of the UK’s immigration and asylum legal system. And he didn’t mince his words, saying he found “no evidence that would support… optimism” that things would improve.

Overarching concerns

On Tuesday 30 January the Chief Inspector David Bolt published his report [pdf] on the “Home Office’s approach to learning from immigration litigation”. That is, court action taken against it by immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. And Bolt’s criticism of what the Home Office had (or hadn’t) learnt was overarching.

He noted that “between 2004 and 2013, the number of Judicial Reviews lodged against the Home Office increased seven-fold”. And while Bolt acknowledged [pdf, p8] that the actions of claimants and the courts are “not within the Home Office’s control”, he raised the following concerns:

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  • The government was constantly missing [pdf, p12] its own target for responding to legal claims, even though Bolt considered the targets to be “low”.
  • No Service Level Agreement between the Home Office and the Government’s Legal Department had been agreed [pdf, p13] and unnecessary duplication of records was taking place.
  • Bolt noted [pdf, p13] that he found “limited evidence of organisational learning or continuous improvement” in the way the Home Office dealt with private legal claims against it.
  • Relationships between departments dealing with legal claims were sometimes “poor [pdf, p14]“.
  • The number [pdf, p15] of asylum cases that went to appeal (a ‘Substantive Hearing‘) and which the government then conceded, “jumps significantly” in 2016/17.

“No evidence” the Home Office is capable?

Overall, Bolt was most critical of the Home Office’s ability to control its costs. He said:

In 2016-17… budgets were… significantly overspent, which raised concerns about the Home Office’s ability to control its expenditure in this area. The overall budget is planned to reduce substantially in 2019-20, which will require an exceptional level of cost saving efficiencies. I found no evidence that would support such optimism.

But ultimately, he concluded [pdf, p15] that to reduce the number of people taking it to court, and therefore its costs, the government should improve its:

initial decision making, so that fewer individuals have cause to make a claim.

Bolt made seven recommendations [pdf, p16], all of which the government accepted. Whether its performance, and its treatment of people wanting to live in the UK, will improve remains to be seen.

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