Former Border Agency chief explains huge flaws in UK's asylum system

5 October 2020, 09:50

By Fiona Jones

This former Border Agency chief explains the three major flaws in the UK's asylum immigration system to LBC's Nick Ferrari after the Home Secretary pledges to give it an "overhaul."

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced plans to “overhaul” Britain’s asylum immigration system in a speech to the Conservative Party virtual conference.

The planned new legislation, set to be introduced next year, would toughen up the asylum system in the biggest change seen in decades.

Ms Patel said she “will introduce a new system that is firm and fair”, committing to “expedite the removal of those who have no legitimate claim for protection” and make immediate returns “every single week”.

Former Border Agency chief David Wood told LBC that there has been various attempts by various Governments to bring in reforms and "at the end of the day it hasn't made enormous impact as they tend to get watered down."

Mr Wood commented, "Leaving the EU might give more opportunities for [changing reforms]."

He explained that, firstly, there needs to be a secure agreement with France that those who cross on boats from Calais need to be returned as that "disincentivizes organised crime" and migrants who take that "very dangerous" route.

In terms of the UK's asylum system, there are three major ways it can be legally abused, Mr Wood said.

The former Border Agency chief told Nick Ferrari the ways in which Priti Patel would need to fix the system's loopholes
The former Border Agency chief told Nick Ferrari the ways in which Priti Patel would need to fix the system's loopholes. Picture: PA/LBC

Firstly, last minute applications to become asylum seekers are an abuse of the system, he said. The deportation process "doesn't happen over night" and once it has cleared the appeal stage, then the deportees are given a certain amount of notice before they have to board a flight.

Yet at the last minute "sometimes the night before the deportation" the lawyers make an application for the deportation to be staid - if the immigration judges do not happen to be working, the judge working hears that the individual wants to make an application to the court and simply grants the injunction.

"There was a plane last week where 30 returns were due on it and only one survived these challenges," Mr Wood said.

Secondly there is the abuse of the system by making multiple claims against deportation on "slightly different" grounds, the former Border Agency chief said, pointing out that the Home Secretary is aiming to bring in legislation to ensure "you can only appeal against the grounds you initially put forward."

"I think that will be a useful reform if that was possible," Mr Wood reflected.

Lastly, he continued, late application to asylum can occur; a migrant could come over to the UK illegally, work for four or five years, be caught by an enforcement operation and given their notice of deportation.

"Literally on the way to the airport, the lawyer can say he's now claiming asylum because he's never claimed before and you have to stop the deportation and then consider the asylum claim which might take six months or a year," he said.