Failures in UK immigration and asylum undermine the rule of law

As UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) faces possibly the largest single influx of applications in its history when EU nationals living in the UK seek to settle their status post-Brexit, the Law Society of England and Wales is raising the alarm on a system that – despite areas of good practice – is already failing too many applicants and their families.

“Almost 50% of UK immigration and asylum appeals are upheld – clear evidence of serious flaws in the way visa and asylum applications are being dealt with,” said Law Society president Joe Egan.

“Solicitors, charities and the media have long reported huge delays and unreliable decisions in many areas of immigration – from business and worker applications to family, children and asylum cases.

“We know there is good practice in the Home Office and officials who clearly want to make a difference, but each error or delay may – and often does – have a devastating effect on someone’s life.

“In the worst cases, adults and even children are forced to wait years for a decision – and while they wait their life is on hold: they cannot plan, may not be allowed to work, travel or access a wide range of state support.”

Visa applications are extremely expensive with costs rising frequently. Each family member applying for indefinite leave to remain is charged £2,297, while the Home Office’s own figures show the unit cost to be just £252 (amounting to an 811% profit).

The additional costs of appealing mean poorer people may be unable to challenge an incorrect decision. For many – including investors, sponsored workers, students and victims of domestic violence – the right to appeal has been removed altogether.

Instead of having access to an independent tribunal if they wish to challenge a decision, these claimants can either make a fresh application (and payment) or request an ‘administrative review’, which effectively entails the Home Office re-assessing its own decision.

Joe Egan concluded: “These grave problems in our immigration and asylum system undermine the rule of law, while also damaging our country’s reputation for justice and fairness.

“We need an immigration and asylum process that is fit for purpose and that makes lawful, timely, consistent decisions.

“Given the three million EU nationals residing in the UK who may soon want certainty about their immigration status, the need for a robust, reliable and efficient immigration system is more pressing than ever.”

Notes to editors

Government figures for immigration and asylum fees and unit costs (2017)

The latest government statistics on type and volume of tribunal cases received, disposed of and outstanding (Main tables July-Sept 2017, Tab FIA.3)

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Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | | 020 8049 3854