This week the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published a report on their reinspection of family reunion applications.
“Sadly, my inspection team found that rather than building on the recommendations resulting from ICIBI’s last inspection in 2019, the Home Office’s performance has actually deteriorated. This inspection reveals a system beset with delays and a team ill-equipped to manage the complexity and volume of applications awaiting consideration. The result has been unacceptable waiting times for applicants.”
“The backlog of undecided applications stood at almost 8,000 at the time of this inspection, with applicants consistently waiting over double the 60-working-day service standard for a decision. There was no evidence of any prioritisation of these based on vulnerability; applications sat in a pile and would only be expedited as a result of MP correspondence, threat of litigation or sheer luck. Only then was any assessment of vulnerability made by a decision maker. This is unacceptable.”
“The inspection found that work on family reunion applications was hindered by the redeployment of experienced staff to work on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, at a time when their expertise was urgently needed to support the transfer of responsibility for family reunion decision making from Asylum Operations in Sheffield to the Reunion and Returns team in Croydon. The Home Office is rightly proud of the way that staff respond to crises, but the redirection of resources to meet the demands of the latest crisis can have a negative impact on business-as-usual activity, often to the detriment of vulnerable individuals who may themselves have been victims of earlier crises. This leads to an inefficient and ineffective approach which requires confident and assured leadership to overcome.”
We provide support to families to help them make the applications for family reunion. This includes funding documents and DNA tests to support applications, TB test certificates, travel to visa applications centres and chaperones from unaccompanied children.
We know the time and emotion that goes into these applications and the stress and upset that these delays cause. More than that, many of our client’s families are waiting in dangerous situations for these visas to allow them to travel to the UK. This includes families facing persecution by the Iranian government, families affected by the recent earthquakes in Syria and Turkey and children living without a parent, sibling or family member to care for them. Every single day that they are left in this position is unacceptable and increasingly many are choosing to make risky journeys to reach the UK out of desperation.
Behind each of 8000 undecided applications there are real people who’s lives are on hold. Here a father waiting on the applications for his son and nephew shares his thoughts: “I can only say that is really SAD from my two dependents who are even not going to school this year as they can not join free public school in the Senegal. I have managed to pay them private school last year, but this year I have not payed it because I was sure that they were about to join me soon. Unfortunately this was not the case, with their TB certificates are already expired due to a long waiting times for decision to be made. The Home Office need to increase efficiency to speed up the decision making process, mainly for unaccompanied children and the most vulnerable people.”