Home Office staff 'failing to attend thousands of immigration hearings'
Home Office staff are failing to attend thousands of general immigration hearings, according to new figures.
By Andrew Hough
Published: 7:30AM BST 30 Jul 2010
Officials admitted that almost one in three hearings were undertaken this year without official governmentrepresentation.
In response to a Parliamentary Question from Andrew Percy, a Conservative MP, the Home Office admitted that almost a third of hearings were not staffed by its officials this year.
Home Office officials, who are supposed to defend decisions on asylum and immigration, failed to attend 6330 hearings across the country. They were represented in 14,335, the figures showed.
No figures were available for how many of these applications were allowed during this time period.
But previous statistics have shown that half of these such hearings last year resulted in a victory for the applicant, a rise from just over a third two years ago.
Critics said the failure of the Home Office to send officials to fight its case showed either incompetence or lack of care.
Immigration lawyers have said the “farcical” non-appearance by Home Office staff significantly improves their clients' chances of victory while some judges have said it undermines justice.
In the absence of a Home Office representative the judge has to rely on a written bundle of evidence provided by the Home Office.
Some judges have previously been forced to ask lawyers bringing the appeal effectively to cross-examine their own clients.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, last night said the figures showed the Home Office either did not care or there is a high level of incompetence in the department.
I am shocked and disappointed at the number of cases where the Home Office has just simply not turned up at a hearing, he said.
It is a waste of the court's time, a waste of taxpayer's money and cause distress to the individuals who are left waiting in these cases.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister said “public protection and harm reduction remained the UK Border Agencys primary consideration when deciding on operational issues.
“Our appeal process is designed so that many appeals should be and are determined on the documentary evidence without a need for representation, he said.
The Government is committed to improving the immigration system so we target our resources more effectively including in court.
He said the government had to focus our resources on defending the right cases in court. Officials attended 90 per cent of asylum, bail, deportations and high harm cases, he added.
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