Quality Protection Partnership
The project is operated by a small group of UNHCR staff who have access to Home Office files for auditing purposes.
The main aims of the project are to:
- Improve the functioning, quality, fairness, efficiency and integrity of the UK asylum system and other systems which affect persons falling under UNHCR’s mandate (including the statelessness determination procedure, the National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking and modern slavery, refugee child protection measures, detention systems and alternatives to detention).
- Support the Home Office's continuing development and integration of quality assurance mechanisms relating to international protection in the UK.
- Improve the quality of first instance asylum and other relevant decision-making.
- Enhance UK asylum and migration management to become more in line with UNHCR’s normative, policy and doctrinal guidance.
- Facilitate UK civil servant knowledge and application of best practices relating to international protection.
- Assist the UK to serve as a positive model for other asylum systems.
Each year UNHCR and the Home Office agree an annual workplan which sets the areas of focus, objectives and activities of the QPP. The 2021 work plan is available here: UNHCR & Home Office, Quality Protection Partnership: Annual Work Plan 2021.
Review: the use and implementation of the Home Office Preliminary Information Questionnaire
UNHCR was asked to review the use of and effectiveness of the preliminary information questionnaire, a form that asks asylum applicants to identify the basis of their asylum claim and provide basic information about their health, family and personal status. The intended purpose of the form was to enable decision makers to focus their interviews on key aspects of the claim and better accommodate special needs. UNHCR's review found varied use and understanding of the form among applicants, government and decision makers and made recommendations for how it could be improved and better fit for purpose
Stateless Determination Report, December 2020
Since 2004, we have undertaken numerous audits of Home Office decision-making and operations, prepared reports based on audit findings, and advocated for improvements. All our reports are provided to the Home Office and relevant Government Ministers on a confidential basis before they are published. The Home Office may request changes to clarify facts presented in our reports, but not influence the ultimate findings and recommendations. Our smaller internal reports remain confidential, but we publish most of our full reports, with Government agreement.
In some instances, our office has undertaken quality work as part of larger regional UNHCR projects, for example the CREDO project (Beyond Proof: Credibility Assessment in EU Asylum Systems) and the Europe-wide study of the implementation of the Dublin III Regulation: ‘Left in Limbo’.
Some key achievements of our UK quality projects include:
- Home Office agreed to fund and collaborate in operating two Alternative to Detention pilot projects (operated by NGOs) in 2019, as a result of our research and advocacy.
- Home Office agreed to and operationalized enhanced training for asylum decision makers on assessing medical-legal reports relating to torture, collaborating with us and NGOs Freedom from Torture and the Helen Bamber Foundation (2018-ongoing).
- Home Office agreed to establish a cross-government working group to examine experiences of refugee children arriving in the UK and protection of their best interests, based on our quality work in 2018 and 2019.
- Home Office made improvements to the Preliminary Information Questionnaire used in the asylum process based on our recommendations (working in collaboration with the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association) (2018-19).
- Home Office made improvements to decision-making relating to immigration detention, based on our review of Case Progression Panels, in collaboration with the British Red Cross (2018-ongoing).
- Home Office published guidance on application of the Dublin III Regulation in the UK which addressed for the first time how Home Office caseworkers should gather evidence and assess family reunion applications and transfers to the UK under Dublin III, based in part on our audit and research relating to Dublin III from 2015-2017.
- The Home Office has made improvements to the stateless determination procedure introduced in 2013, based on our advocacy and quality audit.
- Home Office established an internal quality assurance team in 2007 in response to UNHCR’s fifth QI report to monitor the quality of its asylum decisions, and thereafter improved its internal quality assurance framework based on joint minimum standards annexed to the sixth QI report published in 2009.
- Our reviews of the Detained Fast-Track asylum determination procedure in 2008 and 2010 highlighted problematic practices and assisted the Home Office and civil society to see where changes were needed. The operation of the DFT was found unlawful through litigation in 2015.
- The Home Office changed its digital recording equipment for recording asylum interviews after our snapshot audit of a digital recording pilot revealed that the equipment and transcript produced did not provide a reliable record of asylum interviews.
- Improvements to Home Office processing of applications by refugee children to enter the UK under Section 67 of the 2016 Immigration Act (the Dubs Scheme), further to our regular reviews of its operation from Italy, France and Greece and subsequent recommendations.
International components of our project:
In addition to our work to improve the quality of asylum decision-making in the UK, our agreements with the Home Office include funding for international work such as:
- Sharing good practices relating to our UK quality projects with other governments and European agencies through study visits and presentation.
- Enhancing quality in refugee status determination procedures carried out by UNHCR operations in other selected national asylum systems. Our team provides support and capacity development for refugee status determination procedures in those countries to help ensure that they meet international standards.
Sharing international best practice with the UK:
In addition to undertaking quality work in the UK, we share research and best practice reports prepared by UNHCR with the Home Office and civil society organisations, including the following topics:
Dealing with the 2020 pandemic
Detention and Alternatives to Detention
Fifth Report (July 2017)
Fourth Report (August 2017)
Third Report (December 2013)
Second Report (June 2013)
First Report (August 2010)
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 Home Office - the Government department 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.
Sixth Report (Apr 2008 - March 2009) - an audit of the quality of first-instance decisions on children’s asylum application.
Fifth Report (Feb 2007 - March 2008) - an audit of first instance asylum decisions made in the Detained Fast Track process at Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres; review of previous recommendation.
Fourth Report (March 2006 - Dec 2006) - review of implementation of previous recommendations; analysis of fact-finding and credibility assessment in Home Office decision-making on claims for international protection.
Third Report (Sep 2005 - Feb 2006) - audit focusing on quality of substantive asylum interviews, in non-detained and detained case.
Second Report (Feb 2005 - Aug 2005) - audit focusing on quality of asylum decision-making, covering Home Office training, interviewing, standard of proof, and country information
First Report (March 2004 - Jan 2005) - an audit of first instance asylum decisions made in the Detained Fast Track (DFT) process at Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres