Quality Initiative and Integration
In line with UNHCR's supervisory role (as set out in Article 35 of the 1951 Convention), the previous UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, during his visit to the UK in October 2003, offered UNHCR's expertise to work with the Home Office on improving the quality of first instance asylum decision-making. Following this offer, and further discussions with the Home Office exploring how best to structure and implement a UNHCR contribution, the Quality Initiative project was established.
Quality Initiative Project
The Quality Initiative project ran from 2004 to 2009 and aimed to positively influence the quality of first instance decision-making and related asylum procedures in the UK and more specifically, in the UK Border Agency (UKBA) - the agency responsible for this area of work. UNHCR's contribution has always intended to be complementary to other mechanisms that ensure due process and fairness in asylum procedures.
Over the course of the project, six reports setting out UNHCR's findings under the remit of the project and detailing specific recommendations were supplied to the Minister for Borders and Immigration on a confidential basis.
Findings highlighted a number of causes for concern, focusing in particular on the application of the refugee definition, the approach to establishing the facts ("credibility") and the conduct of interviews.
Recommendations covered areas including child asylum cases, the detained fast-track (DFT), recruitment, training & accreditation, identification and management of stress, interviews, use of interpreters, provision of COI and guidance, targets, assessment and monitoring of decisions and interviews.
First Report (March 2004 - Jan 2005)
Second Report (Feb 2005 - Aug 2005)
Third Report (Sep 2005 - Feb 2006)
Fourth Report (March 2006 - Dec 2006)
Fifth Report (Feb 2007 - March 2008)
Sixth Report (Apr 2008 - March 2009)
Quality Integration Project
As of 2010, UNHCR continues to work with the UKBA to implement recommendations stemming from collaborative work under the Quality Initiative. Recognising the UKBA's significant progress in developing the area of Quality Assurance in asylum, the project has now moved into a phase of supporting the UKBA's continued development and integration of quality assurance mechanisms into the various areas of the Agency's work that go towards addressing international protection concerns. This new phase and the related joint project between the UNHCR and UKBA is known as the Quality Integration project.
First Report (August 2010)
Untold Stories: Families in the Asylum Process
UNHCR’s report Untold Stories: Families in the Asylum Process reviews the quality of asylum decisions for families seeking international protection in the United Kingdom. The report is a product of the Quality Integration (QI) Project – the second phase of a joint UNHCR and UK Government collaborative endeavour aimed at improving the quality of the refugee status determination (RSD) procedure in the UK. UNHCR was asked in 2011 by the UK Government’s Home Office to undertake an audit of RSD decisions in family claims as part of the UK’s Family Returns Process. UNHCR’s involvement came about in recognition that fair return of families necessitates a thorough and fair RSD procedure which, after carefully establishing all of the facts and thoroughly assessing the claim, ascertains that no member of an asylum-seeking family is in need of international protection. Based on the findings of the audit, UNHCR provides recommendations for strengthening the asylum process for families.