Independent Asylum Commission launches interim findings

Last week the IAC launched its interim findings at the House of Commons from a year’s consultation and research with asylum seekers, immigration officials, policy-makers and the general public. The commission is a laudable exercise: to independently assess the efficacy of the asylum system from the perspective of a range of citizens and taxpayers in whose name it is set up. The report contains comprehensive and detailed findings and represents the major concerns of the commissioners having consulted widely on the issue. At the launch, however, the findings introduced by the commissioners seemed to focus almost entirely on the mistreatment of individuals within the system, with asylum seekers giving oral testimony to illustrate the suffering and hardship which many experience. Given the exclusive focus at the launch on the experiences of asylum seekers rather than the efficacy of the system, the lack of contributions from other stakeholders may have left an unbalanced impression in the minds of many of the audience. No doubt there is suffering and inhumanity, some of it extremely severe, that is inherent in the design of the asylum system at various stages. Yet the commission has found other important evidence and causes that do not merely echo the press releases of advocacy organisations from the last few years.

What was missing from the event was testimony from citizens concerned that there is abuse of the asylum system or confused over terminology or reasons for seeking asylum, as acknowledged in the report. Also missing was testimony from immigration officials about the difficulty they may experience in carrying out their work for whatever reason, again acknowledged in the report. For the launch of a report that was supposed to consult a wide range of stakeholders and ordinary citizens (and it did, as the regional hearings and list of interviewees is testament to), the tone and substance of proceedings at the launch was remarkably consensual, unlike many comment threads that follow media reports on the launch of these findings.


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