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Petitions

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 13 September 2018

Petition

Thursday 13 September 2018

Observations

Home Department

Asylum decisions

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the current government policy which states that initial asylum decisions “will be usually decided within six months” has not been followed in many cases, with some people waiting years without being able to work, choose where to live or move forward with their lives; further that in 2017, almost half of all asylum claimants waited six months for their initial decisions; and further that, this leaves many people in a state of uncertainty regarding their future, affecting their health, mental health, careers, education, and their financial situation as evidenced in the report, “The Waiting Game” produced by Refugee and Asylum Seeker (RAS) Voice, a group of people seeking asylum living in Manchester.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to follow its guidelines and ensure initial asylum decisions are made within six months, failing this, the Government should ensure that claimants are informed of the reasons behind any delay.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Kate Green , Official Report, 24 July 2018; Vol. 645, c. 984 .]

[P002252]

Observations from the Minister for Immigration (Caroline Nokes):

In considering the request to urge the Government to follow its guidelines and ensure initial asylum decisions are made within six months, and failing this, the Government should ensure that claimants are informed of the reasons behind any delay, the Government have noted the concerns of the residents of the United Kingdom about this issue.

The Government have a Service Standard to make an initial asylum decision on 98% of straightforward claims within six months of the date of claim, this target was met for 40 consecutive months. However, there are a number of older cases, mostly non-straightforward cases that require a decision, many of which have a barrier that needs to be overcome in order to be able to make a decision—many of these barriers are outside of the Home Office’s control and take time to resolve. The Government acknowledge that there is more to do to resolve these older cases and have reprioritised case working teams to speed up decision making for these cases.

In the Government’s response to the Chief Inspector’s report in November last year, we accepted his recommendation to review the guidance and process in respect of non-straightforward claims and we also committed to reviewing our approach to service standards.

The Government also acknowledged the Chief Inspector’s concern around the rising vacancies in asylum decision making teams and pressure that this, and having a relatively high proportion of new staff, may place on progressing cases within service standards. We continue to recruit and train decision makers and are working on a range of measures to improve retention rates.

The Government appreciate that some people in the asylum process may be under emotional pressure, particularly while awaiting a decision on their asylum claim. We provide information to asylum claimants throughout the process, including signposting to any support they may require. All asylum claimants are provided with a comprehensive leaflet that sets out what to expect at the asylum interview, the possible outcomes of the asylum claim, how to obtain legal advice to support their claim, details of support organisations that might be relevant, rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers, and information about asylum support and how to apply. The Government continue to work with non-government organisations to improve the information provided to asylum claimants, including on how to keep claimants updated on the progress of their claim.