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Entry Clearances

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the longest time taken to process an asylum application from a former Iraqi locally employed civilian awaiting an asylum decision has been since the inception of the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme. (307853)

Former locally engaged civilians in Iraq who meet the criteria as set out in the Foreign Secretary’s statement of 30 October 2007 can request assistance in the form of resettlement to the UK. Their applications are considered to be activated at the point that the UK Border Agency is referred their resettlement application by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Before this time, they will have submitted an application form for assistance under the Locally Engaged Staff Assistance Scheme, but not an application for resettlement or any immigration category to the UK. The longest time it has taken to process an application is 13 months from the time when the UNHCR submitted the application to the date on which the UK Border Agency issued the decision after interview. The average time is five months.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent steps his Department has taken to expedite the asylum process for those Iraqi locally employed civilians who are awaiting a decision on an asylum application; and if he will make a statement. (307854)

Several steps have been taken to streamline the decision making process for former locally engaged staff who are being considered for resettlement to the UK. The UK Border Agency has reduced the timeframe from registration with UNHCR to interview with UK Border Agency staff from four months to less than two months. We have also reduced the timeframe between interview date and the decision being made from three months to one and a half months, where no further investigation is required.

We have also responded positively to requests to undertake additional selection missions by staging three interviewing missions previously unplanned. This has ensured that regular numbers of locally engaged staff have been interviewed every quarter during the year and had their decisions made in a timely fashion.

The UK Border Agency is unable to process an application until former locally engaged civilians are outside of Iraq and have been assessed by the UNHCR. Some have delayed their travel because they wished to complete medical treatment or studies in Iraq which is outside of our control. An application is only activated once UNHCR submits their application to the UK Border Agency.

Time frames for decision making are communicated to locally engaged staff at the time of their interview and at regular intervals through meetings with the LE staff manager based in Amman.