Unsustainable: research on initial decisions

Executive Summary 

Asylum Aid has long held concerns about the treatment of women seeking asylum in the UK. This research was conducted to examine in detail one specific part of this process: the quality of initial decisions made by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) when women claim asylum. The resulting report is the first in-depth study of decision-making for women seeking asylum since the introduction of the New Asylum Model in 2007. This Model was introduced partly to improve the way decisions were made, and this report tests how effective these reforms have proved. 

Women's asylum claims regularly present issues that are different from those presented by men, and can be highly complex and challenging. the findings in this report have deepened our concern that the UKBA is badly failing to meet this challenge, and that women seeking asylum are frequently let down by and extremely poor standard of decision-making. 

The research found that women were too often refused asylum on grounds that were arbitrary, subjective, and demonstrated limited awareness of the UK's legal obligations under the Refugee Convention. Many of the UKBA's decisions proved to be, in the words of an immigration judge examining one of the cases included in this reserach, "simply unsustainable", and 50% were overturned when subjected to independent scrutiny in the immigration tribunal. 

After receiving advance notice of our research findings, the UKBA confirmed that its own internal data also indicates that a disproportionatelyhigh number of refusal decisions for women seeking asylum are overturned on appeal. the UKBA has stressed that these are provisional figures, but has also agreed to analyse this data further. Given the concerns raised by our research, this is a very welcome commitment. 

Asylum Aid examined the files of forty-five women from three different UKBA regions - based in Cardiff, London and Leeds - who claimed asylum between 2007 and 2010. Nine of these women were also interviewed. The research analyses the case files and draws extensively on the decisions and the determinations made by immigration judges in the cases of those applicants who appealed the initial decision. In addition to this, the report also draws on the opinions and reflections of some of the women themselves. 

We also interviewed UKBA officials whose work focuses on training case owners and auditing asylum decisions.