MISUSE OF THE ASYLUM PROCESS?Bogus claims in perspective
In 2001, in 31% of initial asylum decisions, the Home Office granted either refugee status or exceptional leave to remain. The number of 'failed' applicants at this stage was therefore 69% - in the region of 50,000 persons. About 20% were successful after appeal. The final number of failed applicants was therefore in the 40,000 region.
The high rate of failure of course includes a proportion of bogus applicants, but this is not the disproportionately large number suggested by the sensationalist media headlines and the political right. The high number also arises because of an attitude within the Home Office and its Immigration and Nationality Division (IND). For example the Refugee Council reports that
The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA in the UK asserts that
Home Office statistics for January 2001 listed 3,495 non-compliance refusals out of a total of 10,935.
(Reported in 'Bridging the Information Gaps: A Conference of Research and Immigration in the UK', http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/irssconf21301.pdf)
The asylum caseworkers of the IND are also guided by 'in-country assessment reports' to judge whether an applicant's claims of persecution are genuine. These reports are not open to public scrutiny.
Population estimates of 'failed' asylum seekers
In 2001, the UK authorities removed or deported about 9000 'failed' applicants to other countries. Assuming about 40,000 new 'failed' applicants per annum over a five-year period (1997-2001), and a removal rate of about 10,000 per year (including voluntary return) this suggests a net population of about 150,000 'failed' asylum seekers within the country. The National Asylum Support Service is able to account for about 77,000: as of March 2002, 31,000 asylum seekers receiving subsistence-only support, and 46,000 in NASS-arranged accommodation. This leaves about 73,000 unaccounted 'failed' asylum applicants for the 1997-2000 period. If the pre-1997 years are taken into account, it is unlikely to exceed the 100,000 - 125,000 range. Most of this number are likely to be engaged in some form of economic activity and will not be illegal benefits claimants.
Bureaucratic wastage and ineptitude
The real misuse of the asylum process may not be from the hapless asylum seekers.
In 2000 the Immigration and Nationality Directorate spent £1.2 bn on asylum seekers - £604m on direct support and £594.5m on processing and operational costs. In 2001 it expects to spend £403m on support and £549.5m on the processing and operational side.
The Government's own National Asylum Support Agency has been subject to scathing criticism for its lack of professionalism. Telephone calls are routinely unanswered, applicants misidentified and files muddled up. The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (Nacab) is on record stating that was "comprehensively failing both asylum seekers and taxpayers". CAB staff reported having to make up to 13 calls to unravel straightforward problems.
It appears that a new civil service bureaucracy has spawned on the back of the asylum problem, absorbing a not insignificant slice of the national social services budget.
Moreover the Government has adopted a policy of contracting out for services
relating to asylum. For example, the now-abandoned voucher system, whereby asylum
seekers were given vouchers they could use for exchange for specific types of
goods at outlets, with only £10 which could be converted to cash, was
administered by the France-based company Sodhexo Pass. NASS has also contracted
out accommodation provision to private landlords and local authorities, and
the management of detention centres to Group 4 Security. It is clear that NASS
has lacked the expertise to establish service level agreements with such providers
and monitor compliance. In many cases, local authorities have made accommodation
ready for large numbers of asylum seekers but plans have been cancelled by NASS
at short notice.
The lax NASS regime has encouraged the emergence of property rackets, evocative
of Rachmanism of the 1960s: high-rise estates in Liverpool's poorest areas,
Liverpool 8 and Liverpool 5, have been bought up by slum landlords to fill with
asylum-seekers for a government grant of £150 per asylum-seeker per week. Vast
public funds have been squandered because of inadequate vetting and management
(Source: Dispersal and the new racism, http://www.carf.demon.co.uk/feat35.html)