Unappealing to the eye

AngelaSmith.jpgAngela Smith on scrapping Clause 11 of the Immigration Bill to ensure a fair and efficient appeals system

The government’s Immigration Bill begins Committee stage in the Lords today, and it is becoming even more obvious that parts of the legislation are ill thought out and highly unlikely to work in practice.

One of the most controversial aspects of this week’s proceedings is the now infamous Clause 11, which severely restricts the right of appeal against immigration decisions. Appeals against decisions refusing or revoking claims for asylum or humanitarian protection, or human rights claims, remain. But in 13 other areas this will be replaced by an Administrative Review – by the very same Department making the decision in the first place.

The government’s explanation, that this is merely a “proportionate and less costly mechanism for resolving case working errors” appears initially attractive. Who wouldn’t want wrong decisions to be challenged quickly and cheaply?  Further examination of the facts however, shows the real reasons behind these seemingly innocuous proposals.

Few decisions are more important or have a greater impact on an individual than where they are legally able to live. A matter of life and livelihood, it can affect families and communities – and potentially employers and businesses. Given the implications it is vital we get these decisions right; and correct that they are challengeable, with an available recourse. It is even more important that we allow appeals when so many flaws exist in the system.

We already know that the Home Office is struggling to deliver a quality service, with huge casework backlogs. But the figures are alarming. Of over 4100 foreign national ex-offenders living in the community while awaiting deportation, 65% of cases are over 2 years old. Over 12,800 asylum cases are awaiting an initial decision, up 17% on the previous quarter. And there is a previously undisclosed backlog of 190,000 in permanent and temporary migration decisions. 

Even more important than these dire numbers is the quality of the decision making. The latest statistics reveal that 32% of decisions relating to deportations, 49% on managed migration (work and students), and 49% of entry clearance applications were successfully appealed last year. Indeed, 60% of appeals allowed are due to case-working errors.

Given all of this, the focus should be on improving the efficiency of initial decisions and ensuring there is little need for appeals in the first instance.

It cannot be right that the Home Office’s response to its own inefficiency is to simply stop people from being able to challenge that inefficiency. So Labour is proposing that Ministers either scrap Clause 11 altogether or at the very least wait until the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has reported back that both he and the Home Secretary are satisfied we have a fair, efficient and effective system.

Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon is a Shadow Home Office Minister in the Lords. She tweets @LadyBasildon

Published 3rd March 2014

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