Last week saw the announcement of the interim findings of the IAC (http://www.independentasylumcommission.org.uk/). The topic is one that has been central to political debate in the UK for a number of years and this report represents an attempt to shed some apolitical light on an otherwise heated subject.
Without getting into the politics, it is interesting to note the features our asylum system shares with other discretionary corners of our public services. There are apparently rules, clear criteria and systems for appeal against decisions. But what is equally clear is that this apparently rational system of rules is can be interpreted and applied by officials in innumerable ways. The outcome is, in part as a consequence, experienced as unjust. The asylum seeker cannot reasonably interpret decisions made because they may have no fit with any other decisions of which they are aware. This perceived irrationality comes on top of often very difficult personal situations, to put it mildly. Should we not be questioning whether such systems work in situations where individuals are so vulnerable? On what basis should/could we deal with asylum cases.
A second issue of interest was the reporting. Immediately, the bias of the commission was questioned. Not being official and selected impartially, the findings were instantly vulnerable to the charge of being partial. Even if that were so, the weighty evidence in the interim report does at least demand some comment or response. It is not adequate to simply respond that “everything is all right really”. Yet that is what we got from ministers.
Finally, what does it take to drum home the message that asylum is not the same as immigration. Even on the day of publication of a clear and thoughtful report, the same old confusion was made and the resultant discussion veered off into nonsense once more.