Home Office inspectors release series of reports: highlights for lawyers

For some reason the Home Office has just released a swathe of inspection reports into a wide range of Home Office operations. In practical terms, this makes it impossible for the press to pick out more than one or two stories from the reports and it therefore very effectively reduces scrutiny. Usually I have nothing better to do than sit and read these reports when they are hot off the press (!) but 10 in two days seems excessive even to me I cannot stir myself to read all of them. It is almost as if there is something to hide somewhere in there. Nevertheless, I am going to confine…

14th July 2017 By Colin Yeo

Border Force needs to ‘up their game’ on slavery

According to estimates, there are 10,000-13,000 victims of modern slavery living in the UK. In order to tackle this problem, the UK government operates a Modern Slavery Strategy, and the Border Force plays its part by identifying potential victims, and ‘targeting’, ‘intercepting’ and ‘disrupting’ traffickers, primarily at the border. How are they doing? Not well, suggests the most recent report of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. With only two prosecutions for trafficking related offences resulting from referrals made by the Border Force in the last two years, the Inspector finds that the department ‘may also be failing potential victims’. Two examples stand out in the report. In…

3rd February 2017 By Nick Nason

Chief inspector criticises Home Office handling of sham marriage cases

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published a new report on the Home Office approach to sham marriages. The report is critical of the change in approach brought about by new powers conferred on officials by the Immigration Act 2014: The inspection found that the initial implementation of the new provisions was problematic, indicating a lack of proper planning: the Home Office did not communicate effectively with registrars about its new way of operating, where it no longer attended register offices and prevented ceremonies from proceeding new processes were cumbersome and weakened by their reliance on fragmented IT and by the limited operational support received from local enforcement…

21st December 2016 By Colin Yeo

Inspection report on “hostile environment” finds hundreds wrongly denied services

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has published five new inspection reports. The most interesting is on the “hostile environment”, specifically the powers to deny driving licences and bank accounts to migrants unlawfully resident in the UK. The report reveals that the Interventions and Sanctions Directorate (“ISD”) responsible for enforcing the hostile environment has a staff of 146 and a budget in £5.5 million in 2015/16. It sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi film. It is, come to think of it. Since the introduction of the power to revoke driving licences, 10,000 people have had licences revoked. The report found that hundreds of people per…

14th October 2016 By Colin Yeo

Inspection reports published on ‘lorry drops’, country information and intelligence functions at the Home Office

The latest from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt: The report found that the Home Office had maintained the quality of its initial response despite the significant increase in ‘lorry drops’. The report also found that: there was a risk that minors placed in the care of social services would run away the Home Office was not as strong when identifying potential victims of trafficking the number of initial decisions on asylum claims fell well short of the increased number of claims made. The Home Office also published its responses accepting the majority of recommendations, as usual. Sounds like an asylum backlog may be building. Given…

22nd July 2016 By Colin Yeo

Chief Inspector highly critical of Home Office internal review process

The Immigration Act 2014 removed rights of appeal to an independent judge against refusal of many immigration decisions, replacing appeals with a system of internal review within the Home Office. It is called Administrative Review. The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has just published a report into how well this process is working. He finds “significant room for improvement.” Firstly, he observes that no internal review was introduced at all to replace one important category of appeal which was removed, which was against curtailment of leave. There is no right of appeal nor is there an Administrative Review, despite this being promised at the time of the passage…

26th May 2016 By Colin Yeo

The Drooling Hounds of Manchester Airport

If you are planning to return from the continent with a little illicit saucisson and brie, then beware of the dogs at Manchester Airport. According to David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Border Force detector dogs at Manchester ‘were making multiple detections of small amounts of sausage and cheese wrongly brought back by returning British holiday makers’, yet failing to make any detections of heroin or cocaine. In his recently published ‘Inspection of Border Force operations at Manchester Airport’, Bolt found that the six detector dogs deployed at the airport were not delivering effectively against ‘Control Strategy’ priorities. Between November 2014 and June 2015, the…

18th April 2016 By Chris McWatters

The Chief Inspector releases his Inspection Plan for the next three years

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published his Inspection Plan for the next three years. It includes inspections on sham marriages, landlord immigration checks, NHS charging, exit checks and litigation (including Home Office Presenting Officers) in the first year. Source: The Chief Inspector releases his Inspection Plan for the next three years. | Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

12th April 2016 By Colin Yeo

Inspection report finds chaotic Home Office practices in student cases

A recent report by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, revealed that the management of curtailment decisions in Tier 4 cases is inconsistent and the Home Office is unable to deal with the thousands of curtailment cases and Sponsors notifications it receives every month. You can see the full report here: A Short Notice Inspection of the Tier 4 Curtailment Process. Although it identified some areas where things have improved since the last inspection in 2012, the report was critical of many current Home Office practices. Bolt identified several areas in need of improvement, for example: Caseworkers made legal and factual mistakes in their decision letters. In 20% of the…

29th March 2016 By Caterina Franchi

Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration criticises Home Office complaint handling

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has published a new report which is highly critical of Home Office complaint handling. The findings echo those of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman from November 2015. Bolt and his team find “considerable room for improvement” in many respects. For example Minor misconduct complaints were automatically recorded centrally as “unsubstantiated” before any investigation had occurred. Complainants were misled to believe that individual immigration officials could not be identified when in fact no effort had been made to identify them. One in five complaint responses was in an inappropriate tone or not in plain English. Record keeping was poor. Internal guidance…

1st March 2016 By Colin Yeo

Chief Inspector criticises Home Office asylum casework

A new report into asylum casework at the Home Office has just been published by David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. The inspection took place between March and July 2015 and was presented to Theresa May on 9 December 2015, so publication has been delayed for quite some time. Things have certainly moved on, with a steep rise in asylum claims and growing backlogs at the Home Office since that time. The inspection reveals serious failings even before the recent rise in asylum claims. Problems begin at the very start of the asylum process, with over 40% of the Asylum Intake Unit screening records assessed as…

4th February 2016 By Colin Yeo

Chief Inspector report on settlement applications finds room for improvement

David Bolt, the former spy turned new(ish) Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has issued a new report on Home Office decision making in settlement applications. The full report and Home Office response can be accessed here. The report is generally positive but the inspectors are critical of some aspects of decision making. The principle failing identified is speed, or rather lack thereof. The service standard the Home Office sets itself for deciding settlement applications is six months. This is described as “generous”, and even then some applications were still not decided within the target. Bolt recommended the a shorter target be introduced but this is the one recommendation that the…

20th November 2015 By Colin Yeo

ICI Inspection on Amman Visa Section: improvements made but same old problems remain

Improvements have been made to the quality of decisions and to record-keeping in the Home Office’s Visa Section in Jordan. However, the decision makers regularly failed to take supporting evidence adequately into account, and, in a fifth of cases, based their decision on incorrect facts. The Amman Visa Section is a visa processing unit dealing with visa applications from the Middle East and Pakistan. It came under inspection in March by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders & Immigration. The inspection only covered “Other Visitors” – that is, mainly tourist, business visitor, and short-term student visas. The full report can be found here.

6th November 2015 By Paul Erdunast

Inspection finds Border Force Officers at Heathrow Airport fail to keep adequate documentation

Last month’s report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, Inspection of Border Force Operations at Heathrow Airport, reveals that the Border Force Officers at Heathrow Airport are failing to record justifications for detention and searches of passengers. If they did keep a record, they often failed to complete notebook records shortly after the event took place, in breach of their own guidance. This is extremely serious because without documentation of events, there can be no proof of abuses if and when they happen. With that comes total impunity for officers of the state and the flouting of the rule of law.

4th September 2015 By Paul Erdunast

Inspection of family visit visa system: serious problems remain

The family visit visa system underwent an inspection by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration last month. The posts inspected were Abu Dhabi, Accra, Amman, Dhaka, Kingston, Manila, Nairobi, New Delhi, Croydon and Sheffield. The Inspector confidently declares that there is “no evidence that the removal of the full right of appeal from Family Visitor visa applicants had led to a higher refusal rate or to an overall reduction in decision quality.” There is also no evidence in the public domain which might either confirm or refute this claim. However, the assertion appears to conflict with the figures on family visit visa refusal rates which this blog uncovered just…

24th August 2015 By Colin Yeo

New inspection plan announced for Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration

The new Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, has announced his programme of inspections for 2015-16: An inspection of the effectiveness of the administrative review systemintroduced in 2014 to replace in-country rights of appeal. An inspection of Border Force operations at Manchester Airport. An inspection focussing on how intelligence is assessed, acted upon and disseminated across the Home Office. A thematic inspection of complaints handling across the three border and immigration directorates. An inspection to assess whether Home Office contractors are effectively discharging their duties and offering good value for money. A thematic inspection to assess how effective the Home Office’s attempts have been to reduce illegal migration through the creation of a hostile environment. There will…

25th June 2015 By Colin Yeo

New Chief Inspector announced

The next Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration will be David Bolt, former MI5 officer and later police officer. Announcement here. Turns out new inspector of immigration, is a former MI5 officer and was director general of intelligence at Serious Organised Crime Agency — Alan Travis (@alantravis40) February 10, 2015  

10th February 2015 By Colin Yeo

New report on EU law casework at Home Office

Just a quick one to flag up a new report by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine into the European Casework Directorate at the Home Office. The report is generally quite positive but the emphasis of the press release, introductory text and subsequent press reports is on potentially abuse of EU rights. John Vine himself says: I found significant attempted abuse by non-EEA nationals applying on the basis of marriage or civil partnership with a European citizen. There were sham marriages and marriages by proxy (the couple remained in the UK and both were represented by others at the overseas wedding ceremony). Most of the proxies were found…

20th June 2014 By Colin Yeo

Immigration raids found to be unlawful in two thirds of cases

In another highly critical report on immigration enforcement by the Home Office, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine has found that in nearly two thirds of cases (59%) immigration enforcement officers entering business premises lacked the legal authority to do so and in addition were regularly flouting their own internal guidance. This report comes the same day as another on the mismanagement of the immigration removals process.

26th March 2014 By Colin Yeo

Removals process revealed to be a shambles

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has just published a damning report looking at the removals process at the Home Office. That the Home Office is not effective in conducting removals is hardly news to those of us who work in immigration law but even I was surprised by some of the stark statistics that emerge from the report. The report is surely required reading for any judges dealing with bail applications or unlawful detention cases.

26th March 2014 By Colin Yeo

Marriage and civil partnerships inspection report

The latest report by John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, was published this week. It concerns applications to enter, remain and settle in the UK on the basis of marriage and civil partnerships and the summary of recommendations is that the UK Border Agency: Assesses all relevant aspects of the Immigration Rules in marriage cases and ensures that this is done in a consistent manner. Ensures that Human Rights are considered consistently in all relevant cases, including overseas applications. Ensures that reasons for its decisions under both the Immigration Rules and Human Rights are properly evidenced, recorded and communicated to applicants. Ensures that the best interests of…

31st January 2013 By Sanaz Saifolahi

UKBA refuse to remove overstayers

In asylum cases it is still referred to as The Legacy, as if it were a second rate Spagetti Western. In immigration cases it has the more prosaic title of the ‘migration refusal pool’. The UK Border Agency’s inspectorate has today [update: link to report here] unveiled yet more cases abandoned by immigration officials, this time of complex spouse and marriage cases dating back as far as 2003. The files were sitting unopened in boxes until the inspectors asked what was in them. How has this well publicised backlog arisen? Well, even if you ASK the UK Border Agency to remove you they STILL won’t do it. The relevant instruction…

23rd January 2013 By Colin Yeo

Time to stop lawyer bashing and look at where the real fault lies….

Carrying on from FM’s open season article last week, it is clear that immigration lawyers are getting a hard time of it at the moment: first it was judge bashing and now the lawyers are in the firing line. The pernicious pastime of naming and shaming the legal profession needs to stop. Fearlessness is needed for us to do our jobs properly, particularly those of us representing  or judging vulnerable migrants, a group even lower in the public’s esteem than politicians. That is made just a little bit harder where there is a risk of judgment in the kangaroo court of public opinion. Under attack themselves, we have seen the…

28th November 2012 By Ripon Akther

Entry clearance decision making: a global review

The Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine, has published a global review of entry clearance decision making. The findings are strongly critical in important respects. The sample size was nearly 1,500 case files from every entry clearance post, so the review certainly was a global one. Vine states as follows in his forward to the report: While there were no decision quality issues revealed in 761 cases, I found there were errors affecting decision quality in 515 cases. In a further 201 cases the lack of evidence retained on file made it impossible for me to assess whether the correct decision had been made… In 483 cases,…

20th December 2011 By Free Movement

Critical report on UKBA use of country information

The Chief Inspector of UKBA, John Vine, two weeks ago released a new report on the use of country information by the UK Border Agency in asylum claims. I’ve been too busy to finish writing about it, unfortunately, and am still catching up on various things that have happened recently. The UK Border Agency had advance sight of the report and has already responded. Most of the recommendations were accepted, at least in theory. In reality the standard response is: “thanks, we’re actually doing that already as far as we are concerned but we’ll slightly adjust our policy documents (which no-one ever reads) to pay some lip service”. The report found…

28th July 2011 By Free Movement

Secret race discrimination

In an earlier post I highlighted the new Ministerial Authorisation permitting race discrimination by immigration officials. This followed on from the exposure of discrimination against Pakistanis purely on the basis of their nationality by the Chief Inspector of UKBA. At that time I asked whether anyone else had been able to find the list of countries referred to in the authorisation itself. I received no positive replies, and it transpires that in fact the list is a secret list which will not be disclosed, even in response to a Freedom of Information request. The justification for non publication is as follows (source): “The public interest in favour of disclosure under…

31st May 2011 By Free Movement

Critical reports published on Amman and Istanbul

The Chief Inspector of UKBA has today published critical reports of the entry clearance operations at Amman in Jordan and Istanbul in Turkey. Click here for press release, here for the report on Amman and here for the report on Istanbul. In Amman, 55% of all cases were found to be failing one or more decision making quality indicators, applicants were found to be refused on the basis of failing to provide evidence they were not asked for and were given no opportunity to provide, documents were declared to be false when in fact they were genuine, supporting documents were not retained on case files and the case notes by…

17th March 2011 By Free Movement

Entry clearance discrimination authorised

  Immigration Minister Damian Green has authorised discrimination by visa officers on the basis of nationality. This follows on from a finding last year by John Vine, Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, that visa officers were discriminating against Pakistani visa applicants. See recent coverage here on the blog. Essentially, very different criteria and standards were being applied by the same visa officers depending on whether they were deciding Pakistani cases or other cases at the regional hub in Abu Dhabi. Rather than trying to eliminate the discrimination, treat all nationalities equally and create a level playing field, the response of the Government has been to institutionalise the discrimination…

18th February 2011 By Free Movement

Discrimination in Pakistan entry clearance cases

In his report late last year on the entry clearance operation based in Abu Dhabi, the ‘hub’ for processing claims from Pakistan and several Gulf states, the Chief Inspector of UKBA, John Vine, made a stark finding of racial discrimination by Entry Clearance Officers against Pakistani applicants for entry clearance: “6.17 We therefore reviewed our findings from our file sampling and established inconsistent approaches were taken as regards the weight attached to evidence, depending on the nationality of the customer. We found that customers from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, who provided limited evidence to support their applications, were granted entry clearance, whereas customers from Pakistan were also being refused for…

24th January 2011 By Free Movement

Litigation, the law and UKBA

I gave a short presentation this morning to John Vine, the Chief Inspector of UKBA. I thought I’d share it with you. It lacks a certain something without my narration, I feel, but it at least gives you the gist. The presentation was based on ILPA submissions to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and on materials I’ve highlighted at various times on this blog, including adjournment figures, official appeal outcome statistics and the outcomes of various prominent cases. I assume he gets plenty of presentations from UKBA on how great their change management programme is, etc, so this may provide a little balance. The message of the presentation…

18th January 2011 By Free Movement

Damning reports by Chief Inspector

The concisely monikered Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency yesterday published two very critical reports on UKBA operations. One was on the visa operation in Pakistan and the other was on removals of families. These reports were actually completed before the election, but publication was put back during purdah. John Vine sounded pretty frustrated about that at the time, but must be pleased that the families removals report has ended up coming out at a highly relevant time politically. The families removals report has had more media coverage, so I plan to come back to this story and pick out some choice quotes from the Pakistan report when I…

28th July 2010 By Free Movement

Nigeria ECOs blasted by inspectors

A tad sensationalist, I know, but true enough, you will find. The Chief Inspector of UKBA, John Vine, just published his report on the UKBA visa operation at Abuja. The findings are that the operation is poor: The ‘service’ represents poor value for money for customers. High fees are paid but refusal notices are repetitive, poorly written, unbalanced and poorly presented. The information available to potential visa applicants is confusing, can be inconsistent and needlessly has to be sourced from multiple websites. This leads to unnecessary refusals. The quality of information recording was found to be very poor indeed. The inspectors attempted to look at a sample of 100 files…

15th October 2009 By Free Movement

UKBA Inspectorate

I’ve been following with some interest the establishment of the snappily-entitled Office of the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (OCIUKBA to its friends). Like many initiatives to establish supposedly greater accountability for the Home Office, there has been some scepticism about this new institution. The early signs are rather promising, though. OCIUKBA is supposed to be an entirely independent organisation. There are now around 40 staff working there, many of whom have been recruited from UKBA but also from other parts of the civil service and various inspectorates. The Chief Inspector himself, a very genial (too genial?) man called John Vine, was previously a police force chief inspector….

29th September 2009 By Free Movement