Torture and Asylum

Thank you to all those who have contacted me about this issue.

The Government has a strong record of offering asylum to those who need it. I appreciate your concerns about political uncertainty but upon speaking with the Department, I have been assured that training procedures and protections remain in place. Indeed, all members of staff who make asylum decisions receive a comprehensive level of training to enable them to make these decisions sensitively and effectively.

These members of staff receive a five-week Foundation Training Programme that includes training on international and domestic law, and safeguarding issues. This is then supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced caseworker that lasts from three to six months. The Foundation Training Programme also includes a detailed section which covers torture claims involving medico-legal reports.

The course is explicit that decision makers must not make clinical judgements and must properly consider evidence and give appropriate weight to all evidence presented in order to reach an informed decision. The course includes example medico-legal reports which the trainees must analyse and interpret as part of a number of practical exercises.

Following the training period, there is a robust quality assurance process in place. This means that technical specialists are embedded within each team, senior caseworkers are placed within each unit and a national internal quality audit team ensure that all policies are complied with when decisions are made.

You might be aware that Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop the training prospectus. As part of that work, Asylum Operations is liaising with a range of external stakeholders, including charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that our safeguarding training remains robust.

A number of constituents have also questioned whether the Home Affairs Select Committee will launch an inquiry into this subject. Following the General Election and break for Summer Recess, the Home Affairs Select Committee has only just been reconstituted and the Chair is currently working with the Committee staff and members to establish lines of inquiry. That said, I have worked with Yvette on other campaigns in the previous parliament and I know she has a very rigorous approach to scrutiny of Government policy. I am sure that if she feels these training procedures are not strong enough, she will consider launching an inquiry.

I hope you find this information reassuring and thank you again for taking the time to contact me.