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Quality Protection Partnership

Quality Protection Partnership

A key part of the work in UNHCR’s UK office is assisting the UK government to improve its asylum system. The competent authority for determining asylum claims in the UK is the Home Office.

Our quality improvement and assurance project commenced in 2004 and has evolved over time: the Quality Initiative Project ran from 2004 to 2009; the Quality Integration Project from 2010-2019; and the Quality Protection Partnership (QPP) began in 2019.

The project was established in line with UNHCR’s supervision of the UK’s implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention (Article 35), and with agreement and funding from the UK Home Office.
The UK recently announced its 'New Plan for Immigration'. This is a complex, 50 page document with over 40 changes to the UK's asylum policy. Ahead of the release of a full legal opinion UNHCR answers some of the most common and pressing questions.
The UK recently announced its 'New Plan for Immigration'. This is a complex, 50 page document with over 40 changes to the UK's asylum policy. Ahead of the release of a full legal opinion UNHCR answers some of the most common and pressing questions.

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 workplan for April 2023 to March 2024 is available here: Quality Protection Partnership Annual Work Plan 2023 - 2024

The workplan for April 2022 to March 2023 is available here: Quality Protection Partnership Annual Work Plan 2022 -2023.

The 2021 work plan is available here: UNHCR & Home Office, Quality Protection Partnership: Annual Work Plan 2021.

Latest Reports

The Community Engagement Pilot Series - Alternatives to Detention Pilots 1: Action Access; and 2: Refugee & Migration Advice Service

The Community Engagement Series tested two alternative approaches to detention in the United Kingdom through pilot programmes supporting people including asylum-seekers to resolve their cases in the community with access to services and quality advice. Independent valuations of the two pilots, ‘Action Access’ and the ‘Refugee and Migration Support Service’, concluded that Alternatives To Detention (ATD) with a focus on community-based case management and legal counselling can be cost effective, increase compliance and make a real difference to the lives of asylum-seekers. The two pilots have shown a promising avenue of civil society and UK Home Office collaboration that can produce improved outcomes for asylum seekers and a more humane asylum system.

Please see UNHCR’s findings and recommendations from the pilot projects and their evaluations here.

“Action Access” was a two-year  ATD pilot in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne from 2019 to 2021 supporting female asylum-seekers in an alternative community setting instead of detention in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

Evaluation of ‘Action Access’, an Alternatives to Detention Pilot

Executive Summary

“Refugee & Migrant Advice Service” was a two-year ATD pilot in the Bedfordshire area from 2020 to 2022 supporting male and female asylum-seekers and migrants in an alternative community setting instead of immigration detention.

Evaluation of the Refugee and Migrant Advice Service’s Alternative to Detention Pilot

Evaluation of the Refugee and Migrant Advice Service’s Alternative to Detention Pilot – Executive Summary

Detained Asylum Casework in the United Kingdom

An audit of the UK's approach to the process of detained asylum decision-making. 

It is well established in international and UK law that asylum-seekers may only be detained as a measure of last resort and only for legitimate purposes. For asylum-seekers, especially those identified as particularly vulnerable, the experience of detention itself presents a significant risk of harm. In addition, as part of an asylum procedure, detention has the potential to impair the quality of asylum decision-making and erode procedural fairness. For these reasons, procedures which provide for the consideration of asylum claims from within detention, such as the DAC process, require especially close and continuous scrutiny.

This report makes 15 recommendations for change, covering detention decision-making, assessing and determining asylum claims, and procedural safeguards.

Report: Detained Asylum Casework in the United Kingdom

Asylum Screening in the UK

An audit of the UK's asylum intake, registration and screening procedures and recommendations for change. 

Registration and screening are fundamental tools of international protection. They affect whether
asylum-seekers are able to access a process for having their protection needs formally recognized,
whether that process operates fairly and humanely, and whether those recognized as refugees can
enjoy their rights thereafter, including the right to family reunification. For host countries, they are
the foundation of an efficient asylum system.

This report makes 28 recommendations, covering all aspects of the registration and screening
system, from staffing to administrative efficiency to triaging and interviews. UNHCR is grateful to the
Home Office for their considered response to these recommendations, which has been included in
Annex G of this report. We are pleased that many of the recommendations have been wholly or
partially accepted, and we look forward to continuing to work together to implement them.

Report: Asylum Screening in the UK

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

Asylum Interviewing

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