UK Visa and Immigration Service “in danger of being overwhelmed” by casework, MPs warn

Home Affairs Select Committee report contrasts staffing cuts with a 29% spike in asylum applications

By Jim Dunton

03 Jun 2016

MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee have raised concerns about the UK Visa and Immigration Service’s (UKVI) ability to cope with a rising number of asylum applications and legacy cases at a time when staff numbers have been cut more than 400.

The committee's new report on the work of the immigration directorate says that while good progress is being made on reducing the number of asylum applications taking longer than six months for a decision, the UKVI is “in danger of being overwhelmed by the extent of its asylum casework”.

The committee said the second half of 2015 had seen 32,414 asylum applications – the highest number since 2003 – and said this, in combination with legacy casework, made for the “highest ever level” of cases pending a decision.

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It said the number of cases pending further review had risen by 37% between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the same period in 2015 leaving progress elsewhere “somewhat undermined”.

It said that over the same period UKVI staffing levels had reduced from 6,933 to 6,511, and predicted that the ongoing migration crisis in Europe was likely to mean pressure on the service got worse.

MPs called on the Home Office to ensure that more staff were allocated to dealing with asylum applications when numbers increased.

“We have regularly expressed concern about the size of the immigration backlog,” they concluded.

“The current backlog is lower than in Q3 2015 but still over 16,000 cases higher than a year ago. It is deeply concerning that there has been so little improvement.”

Elsewhere, the committee also raised concerns about the 13,000-plus foreign-national offenders either detained in UK prisons or living in the country awaiting deportation.

Chairman Keith Vaz said ministers’ failure to deport EU nationals among that count to their own countries was “undermining confidence in the UK's immigration system and in the UK's EU membership”.

The Home Office said 5,692 foreign-national offenders had been removed from the UK in the year to April, “the highest number since the series began in 2009”.

There was no immediate response to the committee’s concerns about the UKVI’s capacity to handle the current level of asylum applications.

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