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Immigration Law Update: Legacy Asylum and Migration Cases

The Border Agency has generally failed to deal with its legacy of unresolved asylum cases, according to a recent report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. This failure was, it says, largely due to inefficiency, poor customer service and a lack of security and data checks.

Legacy cases

The report, An inspection of the UK Border Agency’s handling of legacy asylum and migration cases explains that in 2006, the then Home Secretary made a commitment that the UK Border Agency ‘must deal with’ the legacy of unresolved asylum cases no later than the summer of 2011. The Case Resolution Directorate (CRD) was subsequently created in 2007 to ‘conclude’ these cases.

In March 2011, the Agency stated that it had achieved its aim, ‘having completed its review of all cases in the legacy cohort.’ This was a different outcome from the conclusion of cases that was the original goal of CRD. However, 147,000 cases remained unresolved: in some cases this was because barriers to conclusion existed, in others it was because applicants could not be traced.

Case Assurance and Audit Unit

As a result, the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) was created in April 2011 to deal specifically with those outstanding cases.

Shortly after, John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, was asked to report on how well the transition of work from CRD to CAAU was managed, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the handling of legacy asylum and migration cases in general.

He has now published his report.

Findings of the report

According to the Chief Inspector, the updates given by the Agency to Parliament, stating that the legacy of unresolved asylum cases was resolved, were inaccurate.

In fact, the Chief Inspector found that the programme of legacy work was far from resolved. On the evidence he found, he suggests that cases were placed in the archive after only very minimal work in order to fulfil the pledge to conclude the work by the summer of 2011.

He also found that:

  • Security checks on controlled archive cases had not been undertaken routinely or consistently since April 2011, and data matching with other departments in order to trace applicants had not begun until April this year.
  • The flawed implementation of a policy change in July 2011, coupled with poor customer service, adversely affected a number of applicants. It led to lengthy and distressing delays for affected asylum applicants, including former unaccompanied asylum seeking children, whose cases should have been dealt with in a timely fashion.
  • A lack of governance was again a contributory factor in what turned out to be an extremely disjointed and inadequately planned transfer of work between the CRD and the CAAU.

Recommendations of the report

The Chief Inspector made ten recommendations to the UK Border Agency. These included conducting routine and regular data matching exercises on cases yet to be concluded, ensuring information presented to the Home Affairs Select Committee is accurate, and embedding a stronger quality assurance framework within the CAAU.

“The Agency must now make a new commitment to the resolution of legacy cases and stick to it,” said the Chief Inspector. ”At the same time information about progress presented to Parliament and other stakeholders must be absolutely accurate in order that the performance of the Agency in this high profile area of work can be evaluated effectively.”

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