UK

Home Office Officials Who Fight Asylum Cases Given 'Perks' Including Gift Vouchers, Cash And A Nice Holiday

15/01/2014 07:32 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:56 GMT
PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
Syrian refugees gather at the Calais port, a departure point for ships bound for Britain, on October 4, 2013. France offered some 60 Syrians the right to seek asylum after the refugees occupied a key point in the Channel port of Calais in a desperate bid to get to Britain. A three-member team from Britain's border police was meanwhile on its way to Calais to hold discussions with the refugees, said Denis Robin, the prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Home Office staff who help prevent failed asylum seekers from staying in the country are being given rewards of gift vouchers, extra holidays and cash bonuses.

Immigration officers have a target of winning 70% of tribunal cases in which asylum seekers are appealing against government decisions that they should leave the UK, and are offered the incentives as part of Home Office reward schemes, new information reveals.

The Home Office said the voucher scheme applied to all staff at the department, not just those working on asylum cases.

Rewards of high street shopping vouchers for £25 or £50 were given to presenting officers and case owners working in the areas of asylum and immigration, the Guardian said, which the Home Office said were to "recognise positive performance over a short period of time", such as when officers exceed monthly casework targets.

Many have reacted angrily to the scheme, branding it 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 Officer are really giving out shopping vouchers for officers who help ensure asylum seekers lose their appeals that is a new low."

The revelations came following requests made under Freedom of Information laws.

A parliamentary answer in November revealed 11 vouchers for £25 have been given out since July 2012 to presenting officers in asylum cases as a "one-off recognition of individual performance at court".

Duncan Lewis, a firm of immigration solicitors, believes some cases with strong grounds for appeal are withdrawn by the Home Office on the day of the tribunal because officials fear they will lose and miss their targets.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".

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."