Backlog of Immigration Cases Choking UK

asylum, backlog 16 November 2015

As the number of asylum seekers increase in the country, the UK is facing a large backlog of unresolved immigration cases. This fact was accompanied by claims that the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are in arguments regarding tribunal payments. In order to reduce expenditures, there has also been a reduction in the number of hearings at asylum and immigration centres across the country. Several emergency immigration tribunals are being set up to resolve the backlog of cases and hearings with some being listed more than 15 months ahead.

The situation has been deemed chaotic and several lawyers have reported that a large number of tribunal hearing rooms are left unused despite the backlog. In addition, insufficient preparations are being made to accommodate the approximately 20,000 Syrian refugees that the UK government promised to settle in the following 5 years. The immigration cutbacks are said to be the result of disputes between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice over tribunal payments.

News of more delays was made apparent recently when a report from the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman was produced. The document detailed a scathing report on the poor handling of immigration claims by the Home Office and the fact that the ombudsman was upholding only 7 out of every 10 complaints it received. The complaint also pinpointed long delays along with poor decision making as the main issues that were responsible for the backlog.

The Home Office has also had more complaints lodged against it than any other government department. A teenager allegedly had to wait 10 years for a pending decision which not only cost him his education, but also employment opportunities. Incidentally, the surfeit is not new. In 2013, unresolved immigration disputes and cases reached 500,000 and it is alleged that this number has increased.

The HMCTS (HM Courts and Tribunals Service) has declared that it will manage and organise more hearings to reduce the backlog but it also refutes claims regarding departmental disputes over funding. However according to Colin Yeo, a Garden Court Chambers barrister, the number of courts has been reduced and some cases are taking more than two decades to resolve. Those forced to wait are doing so in detention centres that are poorly managed and which are imposing extra costs on the government. Some suspect that waiting durations are also being lengthened to discourage more immigrants from seeking asylum.

The unnecessary delays and mistakes from the Home Office have had a noticeable impact on separated families. Appeal success rates are a mere 40% at best and ruling mistakes are not unheard of either. In addition to the delays, priorities for listing cases have also been issued by the first tier tribunal immigration and asylum chamber with detained appellants given top priority and asylum appeals last.

According to Shailesh Vara, the Justice Minister, the number of appeals may go down due to the Immigration Act of 2014. There will also be an increase in the number of sittings in case there is an increase in those numbers.

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