UK: Asylum - new report exposes home office failures causing nearly 14,000 wrong asylum decisions in one year
Posted: 09 February 2004
A new report released today (Monday 9 February 2004) by Amnesty International reveals Home Office asylum decisions based on inaccurate and out-of-date country information, unreasoned decisions about people's credibility and a failure to properly consider complex torture cases.
Government figures show that the Home Office gets the initial decision wrong on nearly 14,000 asylum cases in the last reported calendar year (2002), meaning around 1in 5 cases are overturned after costly appeals. This figure rises to nearly 4 in 10 cases from Somalia, and more than 1 in 3 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum applications.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"Getting an asylum decision wrong is not like a clerical error on a tax bill or parking fine. Wrongly refusing someone's claim could mean returning them to face torture or execution. These are life-or-death decisions and the Home Office is getting one in five of them wrong.
"Our study of Home Office refusal letters to asylum seekers shows a staggering lack of accurate information about the situations asylum seekers are fleeing from. This is compounded by a negative culture that means many claims simply aren't taken seriously.
"The Government should focus on improving decision-making from the start, leading to speedier results and fewer costly appeals."
Get it right: How Home Office decision making fails refugees is based on analysis of over 170 Home Office asylum refusal letters received by Amnesty International in 2003. It exposes a startling lack of knowledge about the situation in countries that people are fleeing and documents unexplained assumptions about the actions of refugees and others: for example the refusal to believe that a prison guard might help a woman escape after she had been repeatedly raped.
The organisation warned that plans announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett last year would reduce rights to appeal, with a new one-tier appeals body that is beyond the scrutiny of the law courts. New guidelines will also severely limit the amount of legal aid granted to asylum applicants, making the process of lodging a claim and an appeal even more difficult.
Kate Allen added:
"The appeals system is presently the only thing keeping thousands of people each year from persecution. When initial decision-making is so frequently wrong, reducing appeal rights against these decisions could mean returning people to face torture or execution."
Amnesty International is calling on the Government to urgently review the decision-making process to ensure that it gets more decisions right from the very start, including:
Case Studies taken from Get it right: How Home Office decision making fails refugees
Syrian Kurd, Refusal letter
In Syria, Kurdish parties are perceived as "separatist", and involvement with such organisations at any level is a serious crime which can lead to imprisonment and torture. The consequences of return to Syria for this applicant would have been extremely serious.
Colombia, Refusal letter