Immigration Minister commits to reviewing UKBA processes in light of Freedom from Torture report
The Immigration Minister, Damian Green, has indicated that a report published today by Freedom from Torture will be used by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to improve its processes in dealing with the asylum applications of torture survivors.
The report – ‘Body of Evidence’ – shows that expert medical evidence documenting torture is often dismissed or accorded little weight when torture survivors have their asylum applications considered.
In response to a question from Freedom from Torture CEO Keith Best, the Minister – who was making his first public speech on asylum since the Coalition Government was formed – said:
“You mentioned your report ‘Body of Evidence’; we are looking at it and working carefully with Freedom from Torture about how to improve things. We are looking at guidance with a view to piloting new processes and we are looking at our training and also at our audit processes. There will be a full thematic review to monitor; so we can measure impact not just anecdotally.”
Freedom from Torture CEO, Keith Best, said:
The Coalition Government has taken pains to emphasise its abhorrence of torture but this research shows that survivors are treated appallingly when they arrive in the UK seeking protection. I’m pleased and encouraged by the Minister’s acknowledgment of our report and his commitment to working with us to begin to improve the poor decision-making which currently exists within the UK Border Agency.
"The fact that our report reveals that almost half of cases in the sample were overturned on appeal – and staggeringly this rises to over two thirds in those cases where an MLR was available to the UK Border Agency – just goes to highlight the extent of the current problem.This frankly needs to be addressed to ensure torture survivors are spared the trauma of having their integrity impugned and from living in constant fear of being sent back to their torturers – not to mention saving the taxpayer the cost of these unnecessary appeals."
‘Body of Evidence’ sampled 37 asylum appeal determinations where expert evidence in the form of a medico-legal report (MLR), produced by Freedom from Torture, was submitted.
The report’s key findings include:
- In almost half of the cases sampled (49%) the appeal was allowed by the Immigration Judge, significantly higher than the overall allowed appeal rate in asylum cases (around 27%) - highlighting serious deficiencies in UK Border Agency (UKBA) decision-making in claims which involve torture.
- The overturn rate at appeal increased to more than two thirds (69%) in those cases where the expert report was submitted to the UKBA for an initial decision - highlighting a significant discrepancy in the way expert medical evidence is treated by UKBA case owners compared with Immigration Judges in the Asylum Tribunal.