The Independent Asylum Commission

Fran Smith

An independent panel should carry out a comprehensive and systematic review of the whole asylum system, based on an objective evaluation of evidence taken from all parties involved. ('Providing Protection in the Twenty-First Century', Asylum Rights Campaign, 2004)

Implementation of national policies on immigration asylum should be reviewed by a citizens' enquiry. ('A Global Service for Human Citizens', South London Citizens' enquiry into the services and facilities of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate at Lunar House, 2004)

Responding to public concern about the UK asylum system, to concern among people working in the asylum sector and to concern raised by South London Citizens, the Independent Asylum Commission (previously known as the National Asylum Commission) is conducting a review of the UK asylum system.

The Commission is co-chaired by Sir John Waite, formerly a High Court and Court of Appeal Judge and President of the Employment Tribunal and until recently Chair of UNICEF UK, and Ms Ifath Nawaz, President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers and a member of the Government's Police and Security Working Group set up in the wake of the bombings of July 2005.

The Commission will operate through public hearings, a call for evidence and commissioned research. Its approach will be informed by the principle that the asylum system should be fair, just and consistent with the UK's human rights obligations. The review will investigate the following questions:

  • Are people who need protection able to access the UK asylum procedure?
  • Does the asylum determination and appeals procedure provide protection to those who need it in line with the UK's obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention?
  • Are asylum seekers treated humanely throughout the asylum process up until and including a final decision on their cases and possible departure or removal from the UK?

The Commission will examine key stages and aspects of the asylum process including:

  • access to the asylum determination process
  • the operation of the asylum determination process
  • the operation of the asylum appeals process
  • treatment of vulnerable groups in the asylum process
  • detention of asylum seekers
  • material support and accommodation for asylum seekers including those at the end of the asylum process
  • the removal of refused asylum seekers.

The review will run for eighteen months and report in April 2008. The Commission will report to Citizens Organising Foundation which requested the review, and the report of its findings will be sent to the Government, the major political parties and other interested agencies and institutions, including European institutions, with a view to informing the policies of the political parties in advance of the next general election.

Having funded the scoping stage of the project through a grant to the Citizens Organising Foundation, MB Reckitt Trust has now contributed to the Independent Asylum Commission Coordinator's salary costs for the second phase.

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