Concerns raised about plans for asylum seekers

Border check at airport Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Coronavirus restrictions caused delays in the system processing asylum claims

A pilot scheme outsourcing asylum case interviews to a private contractor has been criticised by a trades union.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the move would be “deeply concerning”.

Interviews with those seeking asylum, which have just restarted after the Covid lockdown, are currently carried out by civil servants.

The Home Office said it was “exploring many options” to reduce the backlog of cases.

But a spokeswoman said the interviews have not been outsourced.

Image caption MP Chris Stephens said the process should be in public hands

The PCS union said it has received a letter outlining how a private contractor could be used.

“Outsourcing a key part of the asylum process to a contractor for private profit, is deeply concerning and wrong,” a spokesman for the union said.

“We need a humane, well-resourced department rooted in a public service ethos, not private companies making money at the expense of vulnerable individuals.”

An MP in Glasgow, where many of the asylum seekers are housed, said the plan is “outsourcing going wild”.

Chris Stephens, who represents Glasgow South West, said: “”This is something that’s a quasi-judicial function and something that we believe should be in public hands, delivered by civil servants who are trained to do the job.”

He added: “The Home Office have argued before that… private companies who run public sector contracts are exempt from human rights legislation.

“On an issue like this, this would have serious consequences for people who are claiming asylum here in the UK.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Many refugees have ended up in Scotland and asylum seekers have been housed here while their claims are considered

The Home Office said using external suppliers “temporarily” could speed up decision making and reduce delays which built up as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

A spokeswoman said: “We are exploring many options to reduce the number of outstanding asylum claims, and alongside seeking temporary resource from within the Home Office and other government departments, we are exploring with external suppliers whether they can deliver the support required as a short term measure.

“Asylum interviews have not been outsourced, and at this stage we are only exploring the potential feasibility.

“Anyone who conducts asylum interviews receives thorough and bespoke training to ensure they are fully equipped for the role and any supplier providing support would have to meet our rigorous standards.”

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