More than half of immigration appeals now successful, figures show

‘For every case in the media of someone whose life was destroyed by the Home Office, there are thousands more who never get any attention’, campaigner says

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 13 June 2019 19:42 BST
Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

More than half of Home Office immigration decisions are now overturned when challenged in court, according to government figures.

The data shows that 52 per cent of immigration and asylum appeals were allowed in the year to March 2019, with 23,514 people seeing their refusals overturned. This compares with 39 per cent, or 20,306, three years earlier.

Campaigners said the figures highlighted the poor quality of immigration decisions – and warned the consequences fall on people who are forced to “wait years in limbo”, often separated from their families, in detention or even deported.

It comes amid a string of cases reported by The Independent in which people who have an apparent right to be in the UK have been refused status, denied entry to the UK or threatened with removal, prompting sustained public outrage.

In many cases, the decisions have been overturned by the Home Office following publication, with immigration lawyers now saying media coverage is often the only way to obtain a “fair and timely” resolution.

Chai Patel, legal policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “In the background of every case you see in the media of someone whose life was destroyed by the Home Office, there are thousands more whose cases never get any attention. These figures bring home the reality of that.

“When the Home Office chooses to resist an appeal, it gets it wrong more often than it gets right, and yet all of the consequences fall upon the people who wait years in limbo, separated from their families, or in detention, or who are deported.

“Sajid Javid can’t ask us to believe he’s fit to be prime minister, while allowing the Home Office to remain such a shambles.”

Legal experts also raised concerns about the lack of legal aid for people wanting to appeal decisions and the fact the government claims legal advice is not necessary for immigration applications – branding this claim a “joke” given so many decisions turn out to be legally wrong.

CJ McKinney, immigration law expert and deputy editor of Free Movement, said: “These are life-altering calls, but judges are consistently overturning more than half of the refusals that reach an immigration tribunal."

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said the high success rate for immigration appeals was the result of the government’s numerical targets for deportations and its hostile environment policy.

“These data clearly show that under this government, most immigration decisions that go to appeal were initially wrong, even though there is hardly any legal aid available to claimants,” she added.

Recent immigration cases that have provoked outrage include that of Bhavani Espathi, who was threatened with deportation while in a coma, and later granted a 12-month visa after The Independent exposed her plight, and Craig Pedzai, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker who was detained for four-and-a-half years and then released to homelessness.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Every asylum and immigration application is considered on its individual merits in line with the immigration rules.

“Caseworkers are given extensive training and mentoring to ensure they are able to deal with the complex issues they may encounter, and there are managers and senior caseworkers on hand should they need further advice or guidance.

“Appeals are allowed for a variety of reasons, often because of new evidence presented before the tribunal which was not available to the decision maker at the time.

“We are committed to continually improving the quality and accuracy of decision-making to ensure we get decisions right the first time, and all allowed appeals are review to ensure we capture relevant lessons.”

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