legal advisers will be at the centre of the remaining phase of the
government's major reform of the asylum system, the Home Office and
Department for Constitutional Affairs announced today.
New measures aim to reduce the length of time and cost to the
taxpayer of the current multi-layered appeals system which is open to
abuse by unfounded asylum claimants and unscrupulous legal advisers.
The proposals build on the success of previous measures in halving
the number of asylum applications, removing record numbers of failed
asylum seekers and reducing the backlog of claims to the lowest for a
The government published proposals today for new legislation to give
the immigration services commissioner new powers to investigate legal
advisers and introduce a single tier of appeal. The Department for
Constitutional Affairs has already set out measures to cut the amount
of money spent on asylum legal aid.
The new legislation would also include:
- sanctions for those who destroy or discard their travel documents
- measures to speedily return those who have already claimed asylum
in safe third countries
- an end to support for families able, but unwilling, to return home
Home secretary David Blunkett said:
'The tough measures we have taken to secure our borders and cut
illegal immigration and asylum applications are working - with the
numbers now half what they were towards the end of last year. We have
also made great strides in speeding up the beginning of the process,
deciding three quarters of new cases within two months.
'We must now speed up the appeals process. Too often unscrupulous and
unqualified legal advisers are encouraging claimants to lodge appeal
after appeal with no prospect of success, all at taxpayers' expense.
'These new measures will introduce a single tier of appeal and give
new powers to the re gulator to act against the legal advisers who are
simply giving advice on how to defraud the system. This will
complement new restrictions on legal aid to stop money being wasted
on groundless cases.
'We need to call time on dubious legal advisers whose only advice is
how to exploit the system at taxpayers' expense.
'I am also dealing with the problems caused by the majority of asylum
seekers who claim not to have travel documents - even those who
arrived on planes having needed documents to get on the plane in the
first place. The fact is, many destroy them en route because
traffickers tell them it's their best chance of staying in UK - by
making fraudulent claims and making it difficult to remove them if
their claims fail. Most of the time, people need documents to travel.
If they won't tell us how they got here without them it will be more
difficult for their claim to succeed.
'Our strategy is not anti-immigration. I have greatly expanded the
opportunities for hard-working immigrants to come to the UK through
legal routes. But the asylum system cannot workin the interests of
genuine refugees if it is widely abused and open to exploitation by
criminal gangs and the so-called legal advisers who help them.
'Some people will call these measures controversial. But to me,
facing up to the real challenges posed by the changes in global
migration is vital to building tolerance and understanding in our
Secretary of state for constitutional affairs Lord Falconer said:
'The move to a single tier Asylum and Immigration Tribunal represents
the government's commitment to provide an appeals system that keeps
pace with change - one that is not open to exploitation by
unsuccessful appellants seeking to use the system to delay their
'The single tier tribunal will provide an effective and early
independent remedy to those seeking to challenge official decisions.
There will be a flexible approach to tribunal composition in place to
provide consistency, quality, justice and fairness.
'A swifter and fairer appeals system is in the interest of all
appellants, and will help the government to ensure that genuine
asylum seekers can integrate quickly into communities.'
The proposals published today include:
A single tier of appeal
- A new single tier of appeal against all adverse immigration
decisions inculding refused application for asylum.
- The current appeal system provides an appeal to an adjudicator with
a further appeal, with permission, to the immigration appeals
tribunal. The new system will merge these opportunities into a
single appeal to a new tribunal. We are also looking at ways to
restrict access to the higher courts.
Enhanced powers to regulate legal advice
- The immigration services commissioner would be able to enter
solicitors' office to seize and examine documents or investigate
unqualified advisers who are not being properly supervised.
- Powers for the immigration services commissioner to raid private
and business premises of unqualified legal advisers.
- Designated professional bodies, such as the Law Society will be
legally required to provide swift co-operation during
- A new criminal offence of advertising or offering immigration
advice without appropriate qualifications.
- Sanctions for those who destroy or discard their documents and
tougher assessments of claimants' credibility
- It will be more difficult for someone's asylum claim to succeed if
they have no travel documents without good explanation, or have
travelled through a safe third country or who do not claim asylum
- New criminal offences of failure to provide a good explanation for
being without travel documentation and failure to co-operate with
- We are also considerin g introducing a requirement for travel
operators to make copies of or hold travel documents for routes
where there is a problem with undocumented passengers arriving in
the UK, and will initiate discussions with carriers.
Speedily returning those who have already claimed asylum in a safe
- Designating some countries as safe for non nationals for both
asylum and human rights purposes to speed up the process of
removal, and reduce the scope for legal challenge, where a safe
third country is responsible for considering an asylum claim.
Ending support for families able, but unwilling, to return home
- Support can already be withdrawn from families who fail to turn up
for a flight once enforced removal arrangements have been made. We
propose to extend this to families who are able to take up a paid,
voluntary route home but choose not to.
The secretary of state for Constitutional Affairs is currently
considering responses to his consultation on proposals to reduce
legal aid granted to asylum seekers. The proposals were in response
to the steep rise in asylum legal aid costs and concerns that the
quality of legal work is variable. DCA propose to:
- introduce independently assessed accreditation for solicitors
working on asylum cases
- limit the costs incurred by introducing thresholds and by
restricting the advice available for asylum seekers
- introduce a single file number for each asylum seeker, in order to
avoid duplication of costs
These measures would save the taxpayer around £30m a year.
* Further announcementfrom the Home Office on Friday.
The proposals are published for consultation with stakeholders before
the government brings forward new legislation at the earliest
A copy of the consultation letter is attached.
Immigration and Nationality Directorate Departm ent for Constitutional
27 October 2003
NEW LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS ON ASYLUM REFORM
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 enabled us to make
significant progress in reforming the UK's nationality, immigration
and asylum systems. For asylum this has meant that the number of
claimants has halved, removals are at record levels and the number of
claims awaiting an initial decision is at the lowest for a decade.
The Government is determined that there should be a balanced approach
in asylum and immigration policy, so that we bear down on those who
would seek to enter the UK illegally and who make unfounded claims,
whilst ensuring effective help for refugees who need our protection.
Our policy on asylum has to be seen in the wider context of managed
migration, through which we are opening up routes for people to enter
the UK legally. That is why we are committed to continued reform, as
necessary, of the asylum system to ensure that those in need of
protection are identified quickly and those who try to exploit the
system are prevented from doing so.
The Government has made it clear that we seek to tackle two remaining
problems in the asylum system: applicants who lodge groundless
appeals to delay removal and the problem of asylum seekers who
deliberately destroy or dispose of their documents to make unfounded
We reformed the appeals process in the Nationality, Immigration and
Asylum Act 2002 and the changes made are already producing real
improvements. However, we must increase the speed and finality of the
appeals system still further. An efficient and speedy system which
provides an effective remedy but discourages dishonesty is in the
interests of all.
We also need to tackle the problem of asylum seekers who deliberately
destroy or dispose of their documents and refuse to co-operate with
the re- documentation process in order to frustrate removal after
making unfounded c laims. This can lead to delays in removal, pressure
on detention space and is an unacceptable exploitation of the system.
We believe that these are important and urgent reforms and intend to
introduce legislation to enact the measures we have announced today
as soon as parliamentary time allows. We are therefore seeking your
comments on these proposals as a matter of urgency. Our proposals are
set out at Annex A.
BEVERLEY HUGHES DAVID LAMMY
NEW LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS ON ASYLUM REFORM
We are writing to outline new legislative proposals on asylum reform
and to seek your comments on these proposals. Responses are requested
by 17 November 2003.
Asylum and Immigration Appeals System
The Government is determined, through incremental change, to
safeguard the appeals system from misuse and protect the credibility
of the process. The Government is also concerned to ensure that
community relations are not adversely affected by what may be seen in
many quarters as continuing evasion and exploitation of immigration
and asylum controls at significant cost to the taxpayer.
The changes made in the Nationality, Immigration & Asylum Act 2002
are already showing real improvements in the appeals process.
However, more still needs to be done to improve the system. That is
why we are proposing to move to a single tier of appeal. Such a
change would continue to safeguard the right of appeal and provide an
effective remedy for those whose application has been refused by IND
or an Entry Clearance Officer. A single tier would simplify the
appeals system and reduce the risk of people seeking to play the
system by making unfounded appeals to frustrate final resolution of
The current appeals system is still too long and complicated. It
provides people with opportunities to abuse the system in order to
cause delay or abscond. We therefore propose to replace the curr ent
structure with a single appeal to a new single-tier Tribunal, the
Asylum & Immigration Tribunal (AIT), headed by a President.
The new judiciary will generally be titled Immigration Judges or
Senior Immigration Judges, but the precise hierarchy remains to be
determined. The vast majority of appeals would be heard and decided
by a single immigration judge, working closely with more senior
judiciary. Appellants, as now, would be expected to raise all of
their grounds of appeal at their one hearing.
The judicial oversight provided by the designated senior judge will
ensure high- quality justice without allowing cases to drag on for
many months through the legal process. Fairness, finality and speed
would be the hallmarks of our new appeals system. Together with the
creation of a single tier of appeal, we are looking at ways to
restrict access to the higher courts.
We have already taken tough measures to tackle illegal immigration.
The deployment of high-tech freight screening equipment at French and
Belgian ports and moving UK border controls to France are already
preventing undocumented and inadequately documented people from
travelling to the UK. However, we also need to tackle the problem of
asylum seekers deliberately destroying or disposing of their
documents and refusing to co-operate with the re- documentation
process in order to prevent removal. We therefore propose to
introduce measures which would ensure that those asylum seekers who
fail to provide documents without a good explanation and/or have
travelled through a safe third country and/or who claim late, would
have this taken into account when considering the credibility of
their claim. These measures would require the decision-maker and
appellate bodies to take account of the above situations when
assessing the credibility of statements made by such persons in
support of their asylum claim. Immigration rules alrea dy make a
similar requirement for undocumented arrivals and those who delay
making their application, but the proposed measures would make this
requirement clearer and enable us to extend the policy to include
those who have travelled through a safe third country.
In support of this proposal, we also propose to create two new
criminal offences. The first offence of being undocumented without
reasonable explanation would apply to anyone, subject to certain
exceptions (EEA nationals for instance), arriving at a UK port
without adequate documentation to satisfy immigration control. The
second offence of failing to co-operate with re-documentation would
impose a duty on those with no right to remain in the UK, including
failed asylum seekers, to co-operate with the re-documentation
process. Prosecution would follow where it could be established that
a person did or did not do something that had the effect of
frustrating, obstructing or otherwise interfering with the re-
We also wish to consult on the introduction of measures to diminish
the benefit of passengers destroying or disposing of documents in
transit and before reaching passport control. While we have at this
stage taken no decision on this, we will consider including powers
that would allow us to require carriers to take copies of passengers'
identity documents before they travel. We will be discussing the
proposal with industry representatives to obtain further information
on the practicalities of such a proposal ahead of taking a decision
on the policy.
Safe Third Country
A further proposal would deal with situations where it is decided
that a country other than the United Kingdom is best placed to
consider someone's asylum or human rights claim substantively. We
intend to legislate so that a person will not be able to challenge
their removal to certain safe third countries on the basis of the way
they will be treated. The designated countries will be those where we
are satisfied that an individual will be neither persecuted nor
subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
nor one which would remove a person in breach of the principles of
the Refugee Convention or the ECHR. This would facilitate their
faster removal from the UK, consistent with our international
Restricting family support
Since Section 54 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
came into force, it has been possible for us to withdraw NASS support
from families with dependent children who have had their asylum claim
determined (either because their claim has been determined and they
choose not to appeal or because they have exhausted all appeal
routes), if they have failed to comply with a removal direction. We
propose that the law should be amended so that support for families
whose claim for asylum has been rejected and who have no avenue of
appeal left, will end as soon as it is confirmed that the family is
in a position to leave the UK. This would provide an additional
incentive to leave the UK promptly either via the Immigration Service
or via a voluntary assisted return and would reduce the waste of
public funds when such a family fails to comply with a removal
direction. Support would continue in cases where the family would
require a travel document to leave and they are complying with the
re- documentation process. The process for removing support from
those without dependant children when their claim is determined would
remain unchanged. If asylum support is withdrawn from a family in
this way, other forms of support, including that provided under
section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000, would no longer be
available except to the children under Section 20 of the Children Act
The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner
The Immigration Services Commissioner's Annual Report for 2002-3< p/="">suggested there was scope for improving the effectiveness of the
regulatory scheme he administers. The Commissioner expressed
particular concern about the activities of those non-legally
qualified advisers who do not come forward for regulation. He was
also concerned by these unqualified advisers evading regulation by
setting up false supervision arrangements with solicitors.
Furthermore, the Commissioner in his Annual Report, continued to be
concerned about the handling of complaints by certain designated
professional bodies (DPBs). In addition, the Commissioner's statutory
duty to provide the Secretary of State, in his Report, with his
opinion as to the extent to which each DPB had provided effective
regulation of its members in the provision of immigration
advice/services was limited by their lack of co-operation in
providing necessary information. Following dialogue with the
Commissioner, we are minded to introduce the following measures.
We are considering making provisions extending the Commissioner's
current powers under paragraph 7 of Schedule 5 to the Immigration and
Asylum Act 1999 so that, when investigating a complaint, a member of
his staff would be able to enter a solicitor's office, require the
production of relevant documents and an explanation of them. We are
also looking at making provisions enabling the Commissioner, when
investigating a complaint of suspected sham supervision of an
unqualified immigration adviser by a solicitor, to enter the
solicitor's office and seize material, subject to obtaining a court
We are also considering placing a duty on designated professional
bodies to provide timely information to the Commissioner and to
co-operate fully with any reasonable request from his staff so that
he can fulfil his statutory duties. Under these proposed measures, in
order to deal with those who are suspected of flouting the regulatory
scheme, thereby committing a criminal offence under section 91 of the
Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Commissioner would be empowered
to enter the private or business residence of anyone suspected of
providing immigration advice or services from those premises when
unqualified to do so, subject to obtaining a court warrant. There
would also be a new criminal offence of advertising or offering to
provide immigration advice or services when unqualified. The
investigatory powers set out in paragraph 7 of Schedule 5 to the 1999
Act would be extended to those advisers to whom the Commissioner has
granted an exemption certificate. The Commissioner would be empowered
to enter a private residence being used by a registered or exempted
adviser for the purposes of providing immigration advice or services,
subject to obtaining a court warrant.
Race Equality Impact
We are currently in the process of assessing the race equality impact
of these proposals, in line with our statutory obligations under
Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended). These
assessments will consider to what extent the proposals have due
regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote
good relations between persons of different racial groups. As part of
this process we would therefore welcome comments on the proposals
from a race equality perspective. The Government is concerned to
ensure that community relations are not adversely affected by what
may be seen in many quarters as continuing evasion and exploitation
of immigration and asylum controls at significant cost to the
taxpayer. A strengthened and credible immigration and asylum system
that treats all applicants fairly and with integrity will increase
public confidence in the system and help to preserve good community
We firmly believe that we need to take action in these areas as a
matter of urgency and intend to introduce legislation at the earliest
opportunity. We would th erefore welcome your comments on these
proposals as soon as possible, to be received by 17 November 2003.
Your comments should be emailed to
INDLegislation@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk or alternatively addressed to
the IND Legislation Unit at the following address:
IND Legislation Unit
Dean Ryle Street
A copy of this letter can be found on the IND website at
www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk and the DCA website at www.lcd.gov.uk.
Copies of this letter are also being placed in both Houses of
Parliament. Please notify us if you would prefer your comments to
remain confidential as all comments may otherwise be published. A
list of consultees can be found at Annex B.
Department for Constitutional Affairs