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Home Office accused of ‘fixing’ asylum figures


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The Observer has run a story on the use of withdrawal of appeals in order to hit success rate targets for Home Office officials. I’m quoted, as is the excellent James Packer of Duncan Lewis. For some background see previous post “Withdrawn decisions“.

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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.


6 Responses

  1. We should not be surprised that this accusation has been made. Its true!
    The Home Office and the UKBA have been systematically refusing the spouses of British citizens since 2010 using any flimsy excuse. We believe some 17.500 British families lives have been destroyed by these policies introduced by christian Ms May and family man PM D Cameron. The measures taken against British families have been heartless cruel draconian and in breach of the Right to a Family Life under UK & ECHR Law
    These rules introduced by Ms May against British families do not apply to EU nationals and their families. Thus Ms May’s rules discriminate against only British families!
    This is a disgrace and a shame on this Tory led Government in their xenophobic race to show how they tackle immigration in order to try gain themselves votes on 2015!
    Britain is no longer a democracy – the British people are seen as being insular and racist the sun has gone down on Britain we are now an island race with island minds!

  2. At the risk of taking a contrary view the Home Office should concede cases they will lose. It often only becomes apparent how strong a case is when the appeal preparation is complete and often representatives do not serve their appeal papers until one or two days before the hearing. How is the Home Office supposed to make the assessment earlier than they do?

    The time it takes for reconsiderations to take place is an issue but the withdrawal of decisions is not in itself a bad thing.

    1. AS :

      1) Processes should be better, so that papers, if served in time, can be properly considered. That way an assessment can be made in good time.

      2) Withdrawal, when done to sooth statistics, is not a justfiable reason to withdraw. A client is better off having the Tribunal make positive findings.

      Withdrawing decision is not a bad thing in itself, so I agree with you there. But the Home Office is hopeless at customer service. It should have a point of contact for cases, so clients can lobby pre hearing with documentary evidence.

    2. I used to think the same thing, and I still agree that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with withdrawing decisions. It is the late nature of the withdrawals that really bugs me now. The client has already incurred (sometimes heavy) legal costs and waited many months, only for the withdrawal to be the night before or on the day – with no guarantee that a different decision will be made. And the fact that HOPOs (and Counsel – which I suspect is a conflict with Counsel’s duty to the court) operate under this 60% target is clearly something that must prey on their minds.

  3. We are conducting a 3-year Research Council funded study based at the University of Exeter examining asylum appeals hearings at the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and their variation across hearing centres, particularly in regards to disparities in outcomes. Since July, we have observed approximately 100 hearings, at several hearing centres in England and Wales. The recent article in The Observer and both Colin Yeo and James Packer’s comments caught our attention as they largely resonate with our preliminary observations.

    Our team draws on social scientific expertise in anthropology and geography that complement the legal expertise of Yeo and Packer. We have noted several issues surrounding withdrawals, as well as the practice of adjournments. More than one Home Office Presenting Officer (HOPO) has explicitly told us that they are required to withdraw a case if they think they are likely to lose it, even if this is on the day of the hearing itself. Some have stressed that they are under instruction from above to withdraw but may be actually reluctant to do so, highlighting the difficulties withdrawals can cause.

    The impetus to withdraw an asylum appeal may also come from Immigration Judges (IJs). For example, one Immigration Judge discussed his reluctance to adjourn a case (there is a general reluctance to adjourn at this specific hearing centre) and instead urged the HOPO to withdraw. He also noted that the Home Office will often withdraw if they are refused an adjournment. This was reflected in cases at other hearing centres where Judges have encouraged the Home Office (HO) to withdraw, in one instance being told to use “common sense” in conceding the case and withdrawing.

    We have also explicitly seen cases withdrawn within a hearing, after it has begun, though more frequently we’ve seen them withdrawn the morning of the hearing (as they have already been listed to be heard, and often the parties are present). In one explicit example, a Senior Immigration Judge told the HOPO that they would have a hard time in convincing him that an appellant should be returned to a country of conflict. The HOPO immediately telephoned their senior advisor, and returned to inform the IJ that the HO would be withdrawing as they would be “fighting a closed door.”

    In regards to the issue of HOPOs achieving a 60% ‘success’ rate, this is a discussion that has been coming up a lot during our observations. One HOPO lamented that “none of us are meeting it,” even at a Hearing Centre known for its high refusal rate for asylum appeals. It is apparent that they seem under pressure by this mandate, with several stating they will receive a stern ‘talking to’ if they fail, and that it is an inappropriate measure both for them and for asylum hearings more generally.

    We are at an early stage of the research, but are already finding interesting differences in practices around adjournments and withdrawals of asylum appeals and are interested to see that these are issues others are also discussing. The study will be returning to observe asylum appeal hearings at several hearing centres early next year. We welcome input and feedback and would be happy to discuss our experiences and findings over the coming months. If you are interested, you can find out more about the project at: http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/asylumappeals/ and http://compasoxfordblog.co.uk/2013/08/observing-differences-asylum-appeals-in-the-uk/