My Lords, the Home Secretary has publicly stated that he is committed to a fair and humane immigration system. Although the latest published data shows that the immigration system is meeting published service standards on the majority of high-volume routes and at the border, we are continually seeking to improve our performance. We are reviewing the operational assurance regime across the immigration system to ensure that it is effective and reflects best practice.
Is the Minister not ashamed that three young Eritrean men in their late teens who came to the UK committed suicide because of our immigration procedures? Is she not ashamed that 40% of immigration decisions made by the Home Office are overturned on appeal? Is it not time that this was looked at, possibly by an outside agency independent of government, to overhaul the procedures and bring us an immigration system that is fit for purpose?
The case raised by the noble Lord is obviously very sad, but he will understand that I cannot comment on individual cases, other than by saying that 94% of straightforward asylum claims are processed within service standards. However, we are committed to reaching asylum decisions as quickly as we can, while ensuring that those often complex cases are given proper consideration. He talked about appeals, and I do not disagree with him: we wish that the appeals rate was better. However, I am sure he understands that quite often information is brought at the last minute which enables an appeal to be granted.
My Lords, given the support last week from around the House during the debate on a Motion on this, what steps are the Government now taking to ensure that no child who belongs in this country is dragged into the immigration control system because they cannot afford the fee to register their entitlement to citizenship, which the Home Secretary himself described as “huge”?
I half expected to see the noble Baroness at the debate last week, but I know her absolute commitment to this. The Home Secretary has made it very clear that there will be a far more humane system in the Home Office. I know that children who come here and who are under local authority care are treated as they would be if they were citizens of this country. There is complexity in this, obviously, and when a child turns 17 and a half, their case has to be looked at again. However, I cannot give her any further update on fees for children.
My Lords, I am pleased that the Home Office has made efforts to improve its performance in assessing claims for asylum based on religious persecution by developing a dedicated training model with the help of the APPG for International Freedom of Religion and Belief and the asylum advocacy group. To ensure that this knowledge is integrated into departmental work, will my noble friend include this training in the compulsory foundation training course provided to all Home Office caseworkers?
On a number of occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have described the types of decision-making in UKVI that we are seeking to improve. That includes improving the training and mentoring programmes for new caseworkers, as well as the wider assurance process, which my noble friend would expect us to do. The assurance process follows the three lines of defence and at each stage of an assessment there is scrutiny of the effectiveness of the decision-making process.
My Lords, last week’s announcement of the changes in the tier 2 visa regime for NHS staff was urgently necessary and much appreciated. Will the Minister now look at some of the bureaucratic processes of the Home Office which are still causing problems, particularly for general practitioners already working in this country, and providing valuable services to patients, when their continued service is at risk? Will she also take the opportunity to confirm that the Department of Health and the NHS have a clear code of conduct on international recruitment to prevent unethical recruitment from developing countries, a concern which has been raised in the House?
I thank the noble Baroness for that question. In and of itself, the fact that doctors and nurses have been taken out of the cap will improve the bureaucratic processes and help decisions to be made more quickly. As to those doctors and nurses who are not in the occupation shortage list, the sponsor still has to go through the resident labour market test. I expect this to go more smoothly and to free up the numbers within the cap for other occupations.
In response to a question from my noble friend Lord Davies of Stamford about tier 2 visas and recruiting medical professionals from overseas, the Government said:
“It is appropriate to take doctors only from countries that have their own very effective medical systems. To take them from third-world and developing countries is not acceptable”.—[Official Report, 12/6/18; col. 1575.]
That reply indicates there must be a government list of some sort of both third-world and developing countries from which it is deemed not acceptable to take doctors. There will be interest in which nations are included in the list of developing countries, in particular, from which it is considered not acceptable by the Government to take doctors; and, not least, how many and which countries from the Indian subcontinent are on that government list. Can the Minister make sure that the government list in question—in whatever form it exists and to which reference on this issue was made by the Government last week—is made available to Members of this House?
I can answer the question about doctors from India because we issue a huge number of visas to them. As to recruitment from third-world countries—I did not answer the question from my noble friend Lord Cormack—rather than guess at it I shall get back to the noble Lord on those countries, although I suspect that there is not such a list.