UK: Amnesty International warns new asylum bill could condemn around 3,000 people to persecution

Government figures (2) state that in one year over 3,000 adjudicator decisions were overturned, following the intervention of the Tribunal (3). Amnesty International is concerned that the new Bill proposes to remove this second appeal stage and the appeal to a higher court: doing away with a safeguard that could save around 3,000 people a year from being returned to face persecution.

The organisation fears that with huge numbers of wrong initial decisions by the Home Office - over 16,000 last year (4) - people's lives will be put in danger if safeguards are removed. A recent Amnesty International report exposed decisions based on inaccurate and out-of-date country information, unreasoned decisions about people's credibility and a failure to properly consider complex torture cases. One man alleging persecution due to membership of a banned political party in Syria was refused because the Home Office had not even heard of the party (known to Amnesty International since the 1980s).

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'People's lives will be put at risk if these vital safeguards are removed.

'When the Home Office gets over 16,000 asylum decisions wrong in one year, it's essential that a robust appeals system is in place to protect those in danger of persecution.

'We are seriously concerned that the new Asylum Bill will create a dangerous gap in the system of refugee protection.'

The organisation expressed further concern that the decisions of the proposed Asylum and Immigration Tribunal would be placed beyond the scrutiny of the law if the Bill becomes law.

Kate Allen said:

'No other country has successfully excluded the courts from such an important aspect of asylum decision-making.

'The new Bill will create an appeals body that answers to no-one and reviews its own decisions.'

Notes to Editors

(1) Based on Government statistics for October 2002 to September 2003, quoted in a letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State David Lammy MP, 9 February 2004 (q.v.)

(2) Letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State David Lammy MP, 9 February 2004 (available on request from Amnesty International Press Office). Based on Government statistics, this estimated that 3-4%, or 2,880 adjudicator decisions are overturned.

(3) The present asylum system comprises an initial decision by a Home Office caseworker, with a right of appeal to an Adjudicator. Applicants can then apply for leave to appeal against the adjudicator's decision, to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal (IAT). The decisions of the adjudicator and IAT can then be subject to judicial review by the courts.

(4) Home Office figures released 24 February 2004 showed that 16,070 initial decisions were overturned on appeal in 2003, compared to only 13,875 in 2002 ? an increase of 2,195 or 16%. Amnesty International's recent report about UK about asylum seekers is available online from www.amnesty.org.uk

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