The Home Office is keeping asylum seekers with strong cases in limbo by pushing weaker cases to the front of the queue in a bid to meet “performance targets”, reports say.
According to a report in the Guardian on Saturday, the alleged tactic of withdrawing powerful cases at the last minute to protect the 60% “Win Rate” set by the Home Office is adding to a backlog of asylum applications that number well over a half a million.
As a result tens of thousands of asylum claimants have been left in limbo, often for years.
Home Office officials dealing with asylum cases are expected to secure a rejection in the majority of cases. Those who fall short are given “extra support” to help them meet the 60% target.
One solicitor told the Guardian the practice was “scandalous”.
“Very often decisions are withdrawn at the last minute because it is apparent that if the appeal were heard it would succeed”, said James Packer, head of public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors.
“The tribunal has no power to prevent this, and a case can sit there for another year or more before a fresh decision is made, causing real suffering and preventing people from getting on with their lives. That’s the mischief they create to defend their ‘performance targets'”
MP Keith Vaz told the Observer that the practice, if true, amounted to “callous” treatment of “extremely vulnerable” people, adding that he would write to the government seeking “clarification”.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that officers were expected to meet targets of having at least 60% of cases refused at court, adding that when decisions at tribunal were withdrawn a senior officer’s approval was needed.
The spokesman added: “The success of our officers in upholding asylum decisions is only one of a range of criteria we use to monitor staff performance. All our staff are expected to meet appropriate professional standards.”
It’s the controversy to hit the Home Office in recent weeks.
On Friday it was forced to cancel a nationwide rollout of its heavily derided “billboard van” campaign urging illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest”.
The decision was welcomed by Communities Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who said the vans – which had been deployed in six immigrant-heavy boroughs in and around London in the summer -had not been “a particularly positive experience”.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday morning, Baroness Warsi said: “I think it’s important for governments to constantly re-evaluate policies that may damage community relations and in this instance that is what has happened”.