African Visa Sections Not Improving Fast Enough
5 July 2012
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published a critical report on the work of four visa sections processing applications from Africa.
The UK Border Agency’s sections in Nairobi, Abuja, Pretoria, and a section based in Croydon were inspected by Chief Inspector John Vine who described the experience as ‘frustrating’.
His report criticised the failure of immigration officers to follow due process. He found an inconsistent approach to the retention of documents and inadequate use of the IT caseworking system. The threadbare audit trails that could be found made it difficult to understand how decisions were made.
John Vine also found instances of applicants being treated unfairly by visa sections and problems with upholding the rule of law. He noted that:
"There is still a significant proportion of cases where applicants are refused entry clearance for failing to provide information, the need for which they could not have been aware of when submitted their application.”
He found the UK Border Agency was not doing enough to ensure that visa sections were applying rules consistently. Sections approached and applied the immigration rules in different ways; this was a particular cause for concern because of the severe penalties associated with some of these rules.
The inspector found that certain sections were not meeting customer service targets, apparently affected by IT problems that have plagued the UK Border Agency. There were worrying examples of visa sections manipulating figures in an attempt to show improvements in their performance.
John Vine was especially disappointed because the report had to reiterate suggestions already made to the same visa sections. Many of the shortfalls had already been identified and recommendations had already been made and accepted, but little progress was made.The problems with customer service, due process and the rule of law are a serious cause for applicants whose lives are significantly affected by delays and problems with applications. They also create difficulties for practitioners already navigating a complex system of immigration rules and policy.