This inspection examined the use of language services by the Home Office’s Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) in the context of asylum casework.
The UK’s Immigration Rules state that: “The Secretary of State shall provide at public expense an interpreter for the purpose of allowing the applicant [for asylum and humanitarian protection] to submit their case, wherever necessary [and] shall select an interpreter who can ensure appropriate communication between the applicant and the representative of the Secretary of State who conducts the interview.
The inspection looked in particular at how well the language needs of asylum applicants were being met. However, the findings have a wider relevance. Past inspections, including most recently ‘An inspection of the EU Settlement Scheme (April to August 2019)’, have criticised the lack of foreign language versions of instructions and guidance, while Stephen Shaw drew attention to the importance of reliable interpreting services in his reviews of vulnerable adults in immigration detention.
Previously, BICS has often seemed slow or reluctant to accept that some of the individuals it encounters, including some of the most vulnerable, will not have sufficient command of English to understand clearly and precisely their rights and obligations unless they are translated into their own language. I am therefore pleased that it has accepted all three of my recommendations.
The Home Office has got a good deal of work to do to improve its use of language services. This needs to be tackled strategically and in a coordinated way rather than piecemeal. Some things need urgent attention, but others will take time and effort. However, getting this right is essential to BICS operating efficiently and effectively and providing its “customers” with the quality of service they are entitled to expect.