Home Office criticised over delays in immigration cases

Home Office sign Image copyright PA

The Home Office has been accused of delays and poor decision making in its handling of immigration cases.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigated 158 complaints against the Home Office and agencies last year, and upheld 69% of them.

That is more than double the average for the public sector. In one case, a teenage refugee had to wait nearly 10 years before he was allowed to stay.

The Home Office said it would consider the report's findings.

According to the report, the main problem the watchdog identified with the Home Office concerned immigration casework, where procedural errors, delays and poor decisions meant people had to endure "prolonged uncertainty".

'Profound impact'

In the case of the 17-year-old asylum seeker, he spent almost a decade without legal status in the UK even though his mother, who had fled her home country, had been allowed to stay permanently.

The report said the young man was in "administrative limbo" because officials continually overlooked his application. He has since received an apology and £7,500 in compensation.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: "We have seen far too many cases where people have been separated from their loved ones, unable to work and where their children have been denied access to education.

"It is the responsibility of every board of every UK government department and agency to recognise the profound impact poor services can have on people's lives and make sure they learn from complaints to improve services for all."

Complaints about the NHS form the bulk of the ombudsman's work but it completed 885 investigations into 981 complaints about UK government departments, their agencies and some UK public organisations in 2014-15.

Four government departments accounted for 85% of the investigations - the Ministry of Justice, Department for Work and Pensions, Home Office and HM Revenue and Customs.

Overall the ombudsman upheld 33% of the complaints investigated.

"The large proportion of complaints that we upheld about the Home Office can partly be explained by the high volume of old legacy immigration cases they are dealing with," the report said.

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