31 October 2013: EIN
The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published a new report looking at the handling of asylum applications made by unaccompanied children.
You can read the report here.
We recommend that the Home Office:
1. Applies the law consistently and correctly to children’s asylum claims regardless of where they
2. Ensures that it meets its legal obligation regarding family tracing and retains a record of the
steps it has taken.
3. Decides children’s asylum claims in a timely manner regardless of where they are considered.
4. Ensures that new performance targets for children’s asylum cases are realistic, evidence-based
and comply with the Immigration Rules.
5. Develops validated statistics for all cases where asylum applicants claim to be unaccompanied
6. Establishes a systematic and comprehensive monitoring system to ensure the timeliness and
quality of recorded data.
7. Improves the quality of refusal letters by ensuring that they are logical, concise and tailored to
8. Adopts a clear and consistent approach to the initial interview with asylum-seeking children,
while continuing to take account of individual needs.
9. Refers all unaccompanied children who apply for asylum to the Refugee Council within the
agreed timing, and keeps accurate records of notification.
In a press release, the Chief Inspector said he found that the Home Office were committed to the welfare of unaccompanied children seeking asylum but significant improvements are needed in delivery.
The press release said that the Chief Inspector was pleased to find:
• Home Office staff were trained and committed to safeguarding children, and working effectively in partnership with local authority social workers;
• where staff disputed the age of an applicant claiming to be a child, we found that they adopted an appropriately cautious approach;
• the Home Office only placed those claiming to be children in the adult asylum system if it had evidence to support that approach or the individual appeared to be significantly over 18;
• there was evidence for nearly all the asylum interviews in the file sample that responsible adults (e.g. social workers) were present; children were offered breaks during interviews in most cases and the average interview lengths were not excessive;
• when it came to decision-making, objective information was given greater weight where the child lacked maturity or understanding of the asylum process;
• no children were forcibly removed from the UK.
However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find:
• in the ‘London and South East’ region, children’s applications were decided in an average of 64 days but it took 141 days in the ‘Midlands and East of England’, which was unacceptably long;
• 37.5% of unaccompanied children were granted asylum in the Midlands compared to 15.3% in London;
• the Home Office’s legal obligation to endeavour to trace the family members of unaccompanied children was not carried out in 60% of our file sample;
• the mandatory requirement to notify the Refugee Council within 24 hours of a child’s asylum claim was being done in only 39% of files we sampled, and only at Croydon and Heathrow;
• in 54% of cases we sampled, staff did not check as they should, that the local authority age assessments had been carried out in accordance with legal requirements;
• an inconsistency in the content and timing of screening interviews. Of particular concern were instances where children were questioned at screening about the substance of their asylum claims, contrary to Home Office guidance;
• the Home Office only sought information from individuals with a direct knowledge of the child in 19% of cases. Obtaining such information could have allowed them to make better-informed decisions.
The Chief Inspector made nine recommendations for improvement to the Home Office. These included applying the law consistently and correctly to children’s asylum claims regardless of where they are considered, ensuring that it meets its legal obligation regarding family tracing and refers all unaccompanied children who apply for asylum to the Refugee Council within the agreed timing
ITV News quoted a Home Office spokesman as saying: “We have accepted all nine of the Chief Inspector’s recommendations and have already issued new interim guidance to caseworkers giving practical information on family tracing. We have also amended the training course for all new case workers to ensure it includes updated guidance on family.”
However, Judith Dennis of the Refugee Council told ITV that the UK has a long way to go before children’s asylum claims are properly assessed.
“While we welcome many of the findings of this report, it clearly shows that the UK has a long way to go before children in the asylum system have their claims properly assessed and have their welfare sufficiently safeguarded. Children should be treated as children first, regardless of their immigration status,” she was quoted as saying.