17,000 immigration appeals unopposed

Thousands of appeals against immigration decisions succeeded last year without the Home Office even attending a hearing to defend its original rejections, figures showed today.

More than 17,000 immigrants won leave to remain in Britain last year when no official was present, the Home Office said.

In all, 36% of appeals in 2009 were not attended by a Home Office representative, compared with 24% in 2008, the figures showed.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, told The Times the situation was "a shocking state of affairs".

"It represents a waste of money," he said. "I think in some cases they cannot be bothered to turn up because they look at the papers and know they are not going to win.

"In other cases it is sheer inefficiency. There seems to be an attitude that they do not even care what the result is going to be."

The figures, released in a parliamentary written answer, showed 17,473 migrants won their appeals at hearings at which the Home Office was not represented by an official in 2009.

The volume of appeals has significantly increased in recent years, peaking in 2008-09 at more than 188,000.

Last year the introduction of an administrative review process for some entry clearance casework cut the number of appeals to about 160,000.

Immigration minister Damian Green said: "Public protection and harm reduction will remain the UK Border Agency's primary consideration when deciding on operational issues.

"Our appeal process is designed so that many appeals should be and are determined on the documentary evidence without a need for representation.

"I made clear when I launched the Asylum Improvement Project, the Government is committed to improving the immigration system so we target our resources more effectively - including in court.

"As part of this, we must focus our resources on defending the right cases in court. This is why we represent in over 90% of asylum, bail, deportations and high harm cases and why team managers carefully scrutinise and identify suitable cases to proceed without representation."

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