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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