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Culture of disbelief


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Claims have emerged from a UKBA staff member previously based at Cardiff that her colleagues were abusive to asylum seekers both to their faces and behind their backs when discussing their applications. The claims are detailed, specific and plausible. If I had to use a single word to describe them, I guess it would be ‘credible’.

Most UKBA staff are no doubt conscientious. The ones who comment here certainly seem to be.

It might be said that the incidents are being taken out of context and were only jokes to make tolerable the difficult, draining jobs done by UKBA staff. The Jim Davidson school of ‘thought’ shall we say. I’ll resist the temptation to say more. The absurdity of this assertion is axiomatic.

The incidents described might represent the actions of a vocal and obnoxious minority. Nevertheless, such people still decide cases and make detention decisions, they are not as far as we can see reported by their colleagues. They surely create a corrosive, corrupted atmosphere in which it is not surprising that a culture of disbelief might thrive.

Coming hot on the heels of a case where a £100,000 out of court settlement for prolonged unlawful detention of a family causing persisting psychological damage to the children was reported and a further judicial review claim for unlawful detention of a mentally ill man highlighted gross failure even to consider UKBA policy on detention of vulnerable people, it has not been a good few days for UKBA.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


13 Responses

  1. This story hit the Guardian website about 24 hours ago. I have not heard of it being mentioned anywhere else. It is, as you say, quite credible and in fact also scandalous but as usual no one in politics, journalism or the media seems to consider it even slightly important.

    You might recall the undercover film of enforcement officers a few years ago. There were admissions of violently subduing deportees – out of sight of CCTV – and one rather liked visiting pretty Brazilian detainees. Equally scandalous but did it change anything? In fact reported abuse of deportees seems to have increased.

    Under the current gov’t and media the vulnerable immigrant and his/her children have become apparently invisible to the so-called political classes. There is more concern about the morals of John Terry than abusing the vulnerable. It speaks volumes about our society and the spineless politicians who we end up electing.

  2. Long live the whistleblower. She is one in a million. Respect!

    And thank you FM for highlighting this story.

  3. V

    Good point about the whistle blower.

    The whistle blower for Damien Green lost his job, if I remember correctly. I agree with you that the lady from Cardiff has indeed shown some courage and integrity here. She went to the press – this tells me that the managers do not have a complaints procedure for its staff, or don’t
    take complaints seriously. That sadly rings a bell for most immigrants and sponsors as well.

    Mr Reid, your old department the Home Office is still “not fit for purpose” many years later.

  4. A belated happy new year to you FM, and all of your chums !

    I would have hoped that lawyers (even “immigration lawyers”) would accept the spirit of the presumption of innocence, or in the alternate that he (or this case she) who asserts, must prove. The entire allegation is not yet established.

    As things stand, this an allegation, from a former undergraduate work placement student, and nothing more. It is clear that she did not use the internal whistle blowing procedures, and rather concerning that the entire (alleged) episode seems to have slipped her mind for nearly half of a year.

    An investigation shall and must follow, if what Ms Perrett has said is true, then yes it is utterly un-acceptable, and sadly consistent with the (overblown and one sided) “culture of disbelieife” mantra of the anti deportatoin lobby.

    Whilst a discrete issue from the recent losses in the Courts, it is far from a happy time within the walls of UKBA.


    1. LondonHOPO

      Belated Happy new year to you too.

      Its always better to hear both sides of an argument, which is becoming thin on the ground from your side of the fence lately.

      Can’t wait for FM to cover the Ann Abraham story. Outch. Its timing wasn’t good hey.

    2. Hello Mr T,

      Yes my side has been a bit thin on the ground, it will wont take you by suprise to know that we are being discouraged from posting on sits such as this one. Perhaps I should instruct one of you to uphold my rights under Articel 8 !

      What’s the deal with the “Ann Abraham story” ?


    3. LH I think you seem to be afflicted with a culture of disbelief yourself. If LP was the only objective person in an office full of unprincipled xenophobes exactly how is she supposed to prove her case? Given that she is presumably breaching the Official Secrets Act by saying anything (which perhaps explains the one year’s hesitation) are you saying that it is all made up?

      Some years ago I made a complaint about an obviously offensive comment made by an interviewing officer at an asylum interview. It was clear to me and my client (who were both present in those days) but the HO just said they didn’t believe us. I did not waste my time on any more complaints after that.

      You also I suggest have to consider the quality of some of the people employed by the HO. I was once arguing that a man who was to be required to leave the UK and then apply for EC to live with his settled wife should not be required to do so as his wife was on a waiting list for IVF and if he left she would have to come off the list and by the time he got back she would be too old for re-admission to the waiting list.

      The senior member of Enforcement I spoke to – yes they talked to people on the phone in those days – replied that the husband’s contribution to the IVF “could be done by post”. Did members of Enforcement reproduce differently to other humans I wondered?

    4. Hi LondonHOPO

      Yes I agree, the HO/Nu-labour veiws on free speech aren’t that great are they. I’m sure FM will kindly represent your ECHR art.8 rights to free speech in court. Soon we’ll be wanting to claim the 5th (like John Terry), but that too went under this current regime. Please don’t ask me to represent you though, I’m not in the legal profession.

      Ann Abraham released her ombudsmans report on the UK’s Immigration system -hence the “ouch” – it was highly critical. While I have seen some of what she suggests is going on, it was only by one African BHC post. It wasn’t in the I (of IND), nor in the ND (of IND),(now UKBA), nor the other African post, back then in my experience. She suggests her critisms now apply accross the ball to all subdivisions of the immigration system, and particularly bad in Asylum.

      Anyway, when FM does cover the story I’ll comment on it more.

    5. A couple of points to make, both to LondonHOPO and to Alex.

      The “he who asserts must prove” maxim only has very limited scope in the asylum process. It would be patronising for me to say that it is well known and established that asylum claimants generally have very little by way of subjective evidence to support their claim, other than the account of persecution itself.

      The culture of disbelief bites where a decision maker is assessing a person’s credibility by using a number of factors, of which some are arbitrary and even discriminatory. It is common for caseowners to find discrepancies in the semantics of the different accounts of the claim and to even pick tiny, inconsequential details from claims in reliance of an adverse credibility finding.

      I actually think this culture of disbelief pervades the Home Office ranks, although I expect some might think that that is to put it a little strongly.

    6. I don’t think it puts it too strongly. I doubt there are many, or perhaps any, UKBA staff who actually apply the benefit of the doubt, the most anxious scrutiny and the ‘reasonable degree of likelihood’ approach that are actually the law.

    7. Sorry, Mr T, Article 8 is broad and it does include correspondence, but it is Article 10 that covers free speech.

    8. Hi LondonHOPO. The Ann Abraham thing is the very critical report about UKBA by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. I’ve been struggling to keep up with legal stuff recently, though, so don’t have much time for the political side. I’m afraid I couldn’t let the whistleblower thing go, though, it matches too well with the silly, offensive reasons for refusal letters that we still see regularly. I’m sorry to say I cam across a particularly appalling one just last week that simply made no sense unless the ‘reasons’ were read as a barrel scraping exercise to cook up something to justify the refusal.