Windrush cases just ‘tip of iceberg’ of immigration failings, report warns

Home Office mistreatment of immigrants goes far beyond the Windrush generation and affects thousands of and asylum seekers, according to new research which concludes that the “dehumanising” approach is systemic.

The report, published by Refugee Action, highlights the issues that occur at multiple points in the asylum process and alleges that “systemic failures” in the Home Office’s approach to asylum claims “dehumanises, disempowers and damages” those who have come to the UK fleeing persecution or war.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the detention, destitution, homelessness, and limbo faced by Windrush children were just the tip of the iceberg, and were widely familiar to asylum seekers. “All of the things those people have been through are also experiences that people are going through as result of asylum system,” he said.

The report highlights several “pressure points” in the asylum process that tend to cause problems for asylum seekers or refugees.

These include long waiting times that asylum seekers face for their claims to be decided by the Home Office. By the end of 2017, 14,306 people had been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for more than six months, which is the current “service standard” for asylum claims. This is a 25% increase from 2016, despite the number of applications for asylum falling in 2017.

The report also details the number of incorrect decisions on asylum claims made by the Home Office. In 2017, 35% of asylum appeals resulted in Home Office refusals being overturned. For certain nationalities more than half of all appeals were upheld, including cases of people from Yemen (70%), Libya (61%), Somalia (54%) and Afghanistan (52%).

Some refugees told the researchers about how the interpreter provided for their Home Office interview – their key opportunity to explain their reasons for seeking refuge in the UK – did not correctly interpret what they said. Some also said they had not been able to access legal advice before the interview and had no clear point of contact to ask about their case.

“The human issues here are the length of time to take decisions, and the absolute lack of clarity on how long those decisions might take,” said Hale. “So people who are waiting two, three, four years, but without knowing if indeed it might be 15 years. People have been left in limbo – a time in which they have got incredibly low levels of income, no right to work, no place they can make their own in terms of housing. They really are abandoned.”


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