Duncan Lewis’s Public Law Partner James Packer has criticised the Home Office’s reward scheme for immigration officers, under which shopping vouchers are awarded to presenting officers successful at asylum appeal tribunals.
James Packer specialises in claims involving immigration and civil liberties cases. He is a leading member of the Immigration Judicial Review and Higher Courts team at Duncan Lewis.
"The Home Office expects its officials to win a specific number of appeals and can reward them if they exceed their 'target'. This is a clear incentive to bad practices,” he said.
The Home Office has set a 70% success rate target for immigration officers at asylum appeal tribunals. A Freedom of Information request by The Guardian has revealed that officers winning asylum appeals receive shopping vouchers to the value of £25 or £50. Immigration officers are allegedly also being awarded cash bonuses and additional holiday leave for hitting asylum appeal targets.
Duncan Lewis immigration solicitors are considering a legal challenge to the Home Office reward scheme.
Duncan Lewis has also written to the Home Office to complain that some asylum seeker cases are taking a long time to process – and that some asylum cases with strong grounds for appeal are withdrawn on the day of a tribunal, potentially because Home Office officials fear they could lose the case and in turn fail to meet the 70% success rate target set.
This means asylum seeker applicants would have to wait even longer for a decision to be made on the case by the Home Office
The Home Office has said, however, that decisions to withdraw asylum seekers’ cases at tribunals are made at a senior level and cases are not prioritised according to the chances of success at tribunal.
The Home Office has also denied that perks like shopping vouchers undermine the fairness of the system – and says that reward systems for immigration officers “recognise positive performance over a short period of time" and occasions when immigration officers "exceed their casework targets for a month".
The Home Office added that the shopping voucher scheme for successful presenting officers is just one way of monitoring performance.
Home Office Minister Mark Harper said no shopping vouchers had been awarded simply for success at an asylum appeal tribunal, as “several factors” are involved in judging the performance and success of presenting officers.
“Presenting officers' performance is assessed equally by reference to other relevant factors that include the quality of preparation and advocacy,” Mr Harper said.
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather said:
“If the Home Office is really giving out shopping vouchers for officers who help ensure asylum seekers lose their appeals that is a new low."
Ms Teather added that reward schemes for meeting asylum appeal targets completely undermined “any sense that the system will give a fair hearing to those who come here seeking sanctuary from war and persecution”.
A parliamentary answer has revealed that, since July 2012, a total of 11 high street shopping vouchers valued at £25 have been awarded to presenting officers in asylum cases in “one-off recognition of individual performance at court”.
Duncan Lewis Immigration and Asylum Solicitors
Duncan Lewis is a leading firm of immigration solicitors and can advise on asylum in the UK and asylum appeals, including complex cases in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal to first Tier Tribunal (immigration and asylum chamber) and the High Court.
Duncan Lewis is also a leading Legal Aid firm.
For expert legal advice on immigration law and asylum in the UK contact Duncan Lewis Solicitors on 020 7923 4020.