Staff and asylum seekers tell of chaos at main processing centre

Serious flaws in the way asylum applications are handled by the
government’s main processing centre were exposed by staff and
asylum seekers at an inquiry last week.

An anonymous employee of the Immigration and Nationality
Directorate centre, Lunar House in Croydon, south London, told an
inquiry held by community organisation South London Citizens that
the centre’s file tracking system was “useless”.

She said the system’s failings were self-evident when a file was
lost, sent to the wrong department, or not added to the tracking
system properly.

The employee said files involving different issues that needed
to be passed from one department to another in the building
sometimes never reached their destination.

She added that the system left her feeling “anxious, frustrated
and de-motivated” and that the government offered no support to its

Another anonymous employee told the inquiry that internal
politics at the directorate centre meant that there was sometimes
tension between the control aspect of the directorate’s work and
the need to provide a professional, high quality service to its

She claimed that unanswered correspondence was the biggest flaw
in the directorate’s system, with serious resource problems and an
estimated 18,000 pieces of correspondence received per week.

The inquiry also heard from several asylum seekers who said they
had been treated rudely and with contempt by staff at the

The government will be invited to give evidence to the inquiry
at a second hearing in June.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the government would
consider any suggestions the inquiry had to improve its services.
“IND is committed to providing a high level of customer service,
and we are always seeking to improve on this,” he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson confirmed that the National Asylum
Support Service would dramatically cut the number of beds it rents
for asylum seekers to 40,000 when it embarks on new contracts with
housing providers.

Nass has been paying for up to 70,000 beds under contracts
signed with housing providers in 2000 but a Home Office
spokesperson admitted that it never used more than about 60,000 of
the beds.


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