The UKBA’s Chief Inspector has issued his latest report Asylum: a thematic inspection of the Detained Fast Track. The report looks at the operation of the Detained Fast track Scheme (DFT).
The Detained Fast track scheme (DFT)
DFT was introduced under the previous Labour Government in 2003. It was originally only applicable to male asylum seekers, but was subsequently extended to females in 2005, and has continued to operate to date. Under the DFT scheme any adult asylum seeker can be incarcerated where it appears that their case can be decided quickly. The effect of this is that the whole process of seeking asylum takes place whilst the asylum seeker is detained.
Cause for concern
The Chief Inspector’s report is based on an analysis of 114 case files. It has also taken into account interviews with UKBA staff for example, inspection observations, and submissions from interest groups. The report identifies a number of matters that should be cause for concern. Amongst other things it notes:
- The screening process to determine suitability for DFT was deficient with the result that victims of torture or trafficking could be allocated to the DFT in breach of the UK Border Agency’s own policy which excludes their inclusion for obvious reasons;
- On average asylum seekers were kept in detention awaiting a decision on their claim for 13 days as opposed to the UKBA published aim of 3 days, and the average time for an interview was 11 days rather than 2. UKBA had not kept a record accounting for the delay;
- There was inconsistent understanding by UKBA staff about what constituted a complaint, and information on how to make a complaint was limited. There were also a low level of complaints – this may however be indicative of the factors listed above;
- The screening process for asylum seekers was not sufficiently private and affected the personal and sensitive information that applicants needed to provide, nor were asylum applicants verbally informed that they might be detained;
- UKBA did not adequately monitor the DFT in terms of cost or timescale, and did not therefore consider whether it was feasible for cases to be decided in similar timescales outside of detention.
There were additionally some positive findings, e.g. the handling of personal data was effective in the majority of cases and the quality of decision making was relatively high.
The report recommends that the UKBA does the following:
- Reduces the number of people allocated incorrectly to the Detained Fast Track by enabling and encouraging applicants to disclose personal information at screening interviews affecting their suitability for the Detained Fast Track.
- Improves its treatment of applicants by providing information at screening about how asylum claims are managed, including the possibility of allocation to the Detained Fast Track.
- Improves its complaints handling by informing applicants at all screening locations of how they can make a complaint; and by ensuring that all complaints are recorded and resolved.
- Increases the accuracy of its published guidance by changing its indicative timescales for interviews and decisions in the Detained Fast Track in line with the average time taken.
- Increases assurance that detention is lawful and that processes are efficient by recording in each case the reasons why any timescales for interviews and decisions are not met.
- Safeguards the personal information of applicants by ensuring files contain accurate personal data relevant only to the subject of that file.
- Increases public assurance of the Detained Fast Track by publishing information on the quality and timeliness of allocation, decisions and removals with associated costs.
- Increases the efficient use of detention space by assessing whether cases currently managed in the Detained Fast Track can be quickly decided without the need for detention; and whether cases currently managed by regional asylum teams are suitable for the Detained Fast Track.
Deprivation of liberty
We’ve previously argued that the DFT should be abolished, but also that the scheme for the detention of asylum seekers and immigrants in the UK needs a radical make over – taking away someone’s liberty really should be a measure of last resort.
You can read about the problems in the DFT in Fast Track to Despair which is produced by Detention Act, and you can read some policy proposals JCWI previously put forward in relation to detention in our submissions on the former simplification project (part 6- detention and bail).