Today GMIAU publishes a new report into the changes made to the immigration system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 has self-evidently presented huge challenges for people trying to navigate the immigration system, as well as for the Home Office and the courts in carrying out their functions, and for us at GMIAU supporting our clients. We’ve had to rapidly adapt our usual ways of working and re-think the norms about how things are done. However, some of the changes we’ve made are here to stay because our evaluation is that they provide benefit not just in times of public health emergency.
We’ve also analysed changes introduced by the Home Office and the courts to keep people safe during the pandemic. This report highlights six changes that our evidence shows have proved beneficial to people making applications, to us as legal representatives and to the government and judiciary in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and fairness.
In each case there has been a shift towards digital processes and away from unnecessary physical interactions. While not underestimating the challenges of digital inclusion, we believe there is a clear case for these measures, originally conceived as temporary, to be made permanent and in some cases expanded.
Retaining these changes would continue to protect vulnerable people from the continuing threat of COVID-19. But public health is not the only argument for these changes to be retained. Our experience shows that the new processes enable more efficient, agile working within the Home Office and the courts, support legal aid being used more effectively by legal representatives, improve the environmental footprint of the immigration system and ultimately enable people to make timely, thorough and evidence-based applications
In the report, we ask that:
- The Home Office permanently accept fresh claims for asylum submitted electronically
- The Home Office permanently accept in-country asylum claims lodged in locations around the country
- The Court of Appeal, Admin Court and Upper Tribunal permanently accept applications and appeals submitted electronically
- The Home Office permanently accept destitute domestic violence concession applications signed digitally or by legal representatives
- The Home Office permanently accept supporting evidence for immigration applications submitted electronically
- The Home Office permanently re-use biometric information submitted as part of previous immigration applications