Public Accounts Committee calls for asylum crackdown

The Refugee Council has expressed concern at the Public Accounts Committee’s
report calling for a crackdown on asylum seekers saying: “If crackdowns worked, the government would have done this years ago.”

The report, released today, has heavily criticised the governments handling of asylum, saying that it will take between 10 and 18 years to remove all failed applicants and that many applicants – including over 400 ex-offenders – remain in the country as the Home Office does not know how to locate them.  

The PAC estimated the backlog of removals between 155,000 and 283,500.  It could not be more precise as the Home Office had not kept track of, or collected sufficient data on those who had changed address or left the country without informing the directorate.

The PAC has suggested new measures including detention, tagging and intense supervision schemes to reduce the number of failed asylum seekers absconding.

Maeve Sherlock, chief executive of The Refugee Council, said, ”Crackdowns make for good headlines, they are not a policy.

“A policy should be effective, well balanced and humane – that’s what we are seeking. Seeking asylum is not illegal, so locking people up left, right and centre is totally inappropriate, and statistically unproven to be effective.

“Detention of people whose application have failed is the most expensive option, partly because of the cost per person, and also because it just isn’t necessary. There is no evidence that people abscond in managed casework situations, as the government now proposes with its New Asylum Model.

“But the people who go missing are the people to whom the government have given no support, who are on the street and destitute – they disappear because they have no reason to stay in touch,” she concluded.

Welcoming the report, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said in an official response: “Work is in hand to tackle all the areas identified as concerns in the report. We are introducing a new approach to asylum that means the process will be faster and more tightly managed and includes segmenting claims based on particular factors, such as whether they are believed to be later and opportunistic and includes greater use of detention and tagging as and where appropriate.”

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