Independent Asylum Commission: UK system not fit for purpose

The UK asylum system is not “fit for purpose” and falls “seriously below” the standards of a civilised and humane society, the Independent Asylum Commission said yesterday.

In its interim report, it identified a “culture of disbelief”, among decision makers where a ‘cat and mouse’ game is played to remove failed asylum seekers from the country.

The commissioners found that Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) staff often arranged enforced removals at times when refused asylum seekers could not contact lawyers or support workers and used procedures that were “inhumane and degrading”.

‘Perverse and unjust’

BIA staff also made “perverse and unjust decisions” because they lacked the training and encouragement by their peers to fairly judge an applicant’s case and circumstance, it said.

The commission criticised the current asylum system for failing to identify or address torture survivors or women, who were threatened by Female Genital Mutilation or trafficking.

It condemned the over-use of costly administrative detention centres, where asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women, are housed for substantial periods of time, alongside convicted foreign prisoners, while they are seeking sanctuary from persecution.

Shortage of interpreters and advice

The commission’s evidence, gathered since October 2006 from several hundred organisations and individuals, found there was also “inadequate access” to interpreters and a shortage of legal advice for asylum seekers to negotiate their way through the system.

“The current arrangements for returning people who have been refused sanctuary are not effective and sap credibility and public confidence from the entire asylum system,” the commissioners added.

It plans to publish its final conclusions and recommendations in a series of reports this summer.

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