Home Office fails
to shift backlog of
asylum claims to the UK
3 November 2014
The Home Office has failed to successfully process the huge backlog of asylum claims left by the UK Border Agency upon its closure, according to a report published by the Public Accounts Committee.
Whilst long-outstanding asylum claims remain ‘on the shelf’, it would appear that the Home Office is also struggling to deal effectively with the number of new applications being received.
The Home Office acquired considerable problems which were facing the UK Border Agency when it was abolished in March 2013. The responsibilities for immigration operations previously held by the UK Border Agency are now shared out between three directorates: UK Visas and Immigration (UKV&I) decides on applications to visit and stay in the UK; Immigration Enforcement detects and removes those people who break our immigration laws; and Border Force polices the border. With over 100 million people arriving in the UK each year, the annual operational cost amounts to 1.8 billion pounds per annum.
Despite maintaining steady performance in some of its inherited areas, the Home Office (the Department) has been unable to clear an asylum backlog including some 29,000 claims dating back to 2007. According to the report, the backlog includes 11,000 applicants who have yet to receive an initial decision on their claim, something the Department has now committed to provide by the end of 2014.
‘To make matters worse, the Department is also failing to meet its targets for dealing with newer claims … The number of claims awaiting an initial decision was up 70% to 16,273 in the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.’ – The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts
The report by the Public Accounts Committee blames a botched attempt by the UK Border Agency to downgrade staff that resulted in 120 experienced caseworkers leaving. However, it mainly attributes the resounding problems to a severe lack of data necessary to manage the pool of backlogs. The report states “In 2012 the Department employed Capita to confirm the records of the people in the pool. By the end of 2013 Capita had checked over 250,000 case records. It is particularly disturbing that Capita had been unable to contact over 50,000 people listed and the Department admitted that they did not know where these 50,000 people were.”
The failure of a number of IT projects has also compromised the Home Office’s ability to track people through the immigration system and ensure that those with no right to remain are removed from the UK.
The report has issued several recommendations to the Home Office which should help to effectively manage both the backlog and the daily influx of asylum claims.
- The Department should ensure it has the right number of staff, with the right skills and the right incentives, to resolve outstanding asylum claims promptly and prevent any new backlogs being created.
- The Department should as a matter of urgency take more steps to identify people that remain in the UK illegally and expedite their removal.
- The Department should immediately take steps to improve the quality of the data it collects and holds through cleansing and regular sample checks, and improve the presentation and clarity of data.
- As a matter of priority, the Department should identify the future IT capabilities it requires, so it can develop a comprehensive system-wide IT strategy that will deliver the required capabilities.
- The Department should gather accurate data on the costs of all its activities and develop a robust financial plan that sets out how it will achieve both the necessary level of savings and the improved performance required.