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Chief Inspector report on settlement applications finds room for improvement


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David Bolt, the former spy turned new(ish) Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has issued a new report on Home Office decision making in settlement applications. The full report and Home Office response can be accessed here. The report is generally positive but the inspectors are critical of some aspects of decision making.

The principle failing identified is speed, or rather lack thereof. The service standard the Home Office sets itself for deciding settlement applications is six months. This is described as “generous”, and even then some applications were still not decided within the target. Bolt recommended the a shorter target be introduced but this is the one recommendation that the Home Office rejects outright.

The report criticises confusion by Home Office caseworkers between criminal convictions and cautions: 40% of the sample of protection settlement applications (by refugees, basically) had been wrongly refused on this basis.

Rather oddly, the inspection report actually criticises the Home Office for being too generous in domestic violence applications and counsels against accepting uncorroborated evidence from domestic violence support agencies. I can only imagine there aren’t many victims of domestic violence who worked with the esteemed inspectors on this, nor that they consulted with any. Of course evidence of domestic violence, which by definition takes place in private, cannot be “verified” or corroborated. That is its nature. Suggesting that applications should be rejected on this basis is ignorant idiocy.

To be fair to the Home Office, this is not really a suggestion that is accepted.

Another worrying feature of the report is what the Home Office response says about refugee leave revocation and cessation. The inspectors recommend more robust checking of whether protection is still needed before settlement is granted in protection cases and the Home Office responds:

This recommendation refers to the need to make sure that settlement caseworkers properly record the reasons why a decision has been taken. In most cases this is already clearly recorded on the Home Office file but we agreed that improving the consideration template so that caseworkers are absolutely clear about what is required would ensure greater clarity. That is why we are updating and issuing a revised consideration minute that specifically requires caseworkers to record their assessment of any change in circumstances as part of the decision-making process. We have also designed and scheduled workshops to assist caseworkers in considering when such changes may lead to the revocation of refugee status. The workshops will be delivered in November following changes to the Immigration Rules relating to revocation of refugee status due to be implemented on 19 November.

This may be further evidence of a change of policy to break the link between refugee status and settlement as mooted in Theresa May’s conference speech.

The inspection reports seem to be shifting towards criticism of the Home Office for failing to do enough to refuse people on security grounds as opposed to criticism from a user perspective.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.