Conflicts of interest in
the UK immigration service
‘undermine the rule of law’
July 10, 2019
The Law Society has commented on the news that the Home Office’s visa contractor Sopra Steria had ended a subcontract with BLS International to provide immigration advice.
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society, said:
‘While it is good news that a relationship which had all the hallmarks of conflict of interest and unfair competitive advantage has been terminated, the lack of oversight allowing such a situation in the first place is a serious concern.
‘Even once the subcontracting issues have been dealt with, a maze of misinformation and misdirection in the new contracted system could all too easily lead to unlawful or incorrect decisions for applicants, delays for others and some may be excluded from the system because of inflated prices, knock-on costs and inaccessible services.
‘There is a real risk of an increase in Home Office refusals based on a lack of evidence simply because the subcontractor has rejected, failed to request or to transfer the relevant evidence from applicants to the Home Office.
‘These grave problems in our immigration system undermine the rule of law, while also damaging our country’s reputation for justice and fairness.
Sopra Steria were suggesting customers should go to BLS International-owned World Migration Services for legal advice. They were also carrying adverts and links to World Migration Services on their website, implying that they were recommending them.
When the news broke last week, neither Sopra Steria nor the Home Office made a public announcement, and both organisations refused to say why the decision had been made.
The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) also said last week it had complained to both the Home Office and Sopra Steria. ILPA were concerned that the situation risked giving migrants the impression that their visa application would be treated more favourably if they took advice from a firm connected to the application process.
Davis concluded his statement saying:
‘We need an immigration process that is fit for purpose – that makes lawful, timely, consistent decisions that, after all, have a profound impact on people’s lives.’