UK & World News
Vouchers For Officials Who Block Asylum Cases
Gift vouchers, holiday days and cash bonuses are being offered to Home Office staff who stop failed asylum seekers staying in Britain.
High street shopping vouchers worth up to £50 are dished out to immigration officers who win appeals against Government decisions that the asylum seekers should leave the country.
The incentives are offered as part of a Home Office reward scheme under which all the Whitehall department's staff are able to win the perks.
Critics say the scheme opens the system up to abuse with officers cherry-picking the cases they know are likely to guarantee success and dropping the more difficult ones.
Immigration officers have a target of winning 70% of the tribunal cases they fight.
The Home Office said the incentives were designed to "recognise positive performance over a short period of time", such as when officers exceed monthly casework targets.
The revelations came following requests made under Freedom of Information laws by The Guardian newspaper.
It showed that 11 vouchers for £25 have been given out since July 2012 to presenting officers in asylum cases.
Duncan Lewis, a firm of immigration solicitors, said it was likely that cases with strong grounds for appeal would be withdrawn by the Home Office because officials feared they would lose and miss their targets.
The firm told The Guardian it was considering a legal challenge the voucher scheme suggested a "clear incentive to bad practice".
Sarah Teather, a Liberal Democrat MP and former minister, told the newspaper the scheme completely undermined any sense that asylum seekers would receive a fair hearing.
She said: "If the Home Office are really giving out shopping vouchers for officers who help ensure asylum seekers lose their appeals that is a new low."
A Home Office spokesman said: "It is not true that individual officers prioritise cases that are most likely to succeed and any decision to withdraw a case has to be approved at a more senior level.
"The success of our officers in upholding asylum decisions is only one of a range of criteria we use to monitor staff performance.
"All our staff are expected to meet appropriate professional standards."
Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: "It's unacceptable that the Government is using gimmicks and playing with people's lives to mask the incompetence of the Home Office.
"Theresa May needs to get a grip on her department, clear the backlogs and ensure the right decisions are made first time."
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