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Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Lawyers criticise asylum rejections
asylum seeker
The government says asylum decisions have reached record levels
Lawyers working with asylum seekers have attacked the government over the way applications are being turned down.

Solicitors say applications are rejected by a standard circular letter without any explanation of why the application has been refused.

But Home Office minister Barbara Roche has insisted that there has been no change in policy.


If it is true that that is what is happening then this is just another government fiddle

Ann Widdecombe
Solicitor David Enright, who specialises in immigration law, said asylum seekers used to receive "comprehensive" letters setting out why their application had been refused, but were now receiving much shorter letters.

He said: "We must be given every opportunity to represent our clients, to seek out evidence to rebut assertions made.

"We must be given the reasons - basic natural justice insists."

Earlier this week, ministers said the number of decisions on asylum applications had reached record levels.

But Mr Enright said the letters could be a factor in the numbers of cases being dealt with.

'Very troubled'

He said: "I can think of no other reason why the decision making has gone up. It's clearly a new policy that has been brought in, without being announced, in order to up the numbers of decisions being made because the government is under political pressure."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said he was "very troubled... that short-cuts may now be being taken by the home office".


This is a method to assist people, not the reverse and what we are doing is speeding up the system, making it firm, fair, fast - unlike our predecessors

Barbara Roche
He said: "There is a very clear procedure; every individual application has to be processed and considered separately.

"You have to give the reasons; not just in natural justice and out of courtesy, but so that if there are grounds for appeal that can be done.

"I fear that it may be the Home Office finding inappropriate and unsatisfactory ways of shortening the queues in the casework line."

Tory home affairs spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe said: "If it is true that that is what is happening then this is just another government fiddle.

"They know that they have to try and show that they are increasing asylum applications in terms of the processing, they have issued numbers suggesting that they are processing substantially more than they were in the past.

'Non-story'

"But if the only way they are doing that is to send out a standard and inadequate letter which will then become the basis of an automatic appeal then they are not actually helping the system at all."

But Ms Roche rejected the attack on the government as "a complete non-story"

She said: "All we are doing is providing more information.

"This is a method to assist people, not the reverse and what we are doing is speeding up the system, making it firm, fair, fast - unlike our predecessors."

Ms Roche said decisions on asylum applications were "recorded in exactly the same way as before".

She said: "They still have exactly the procedure as before for appeal, it doesn't alter that."

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