Migrant are being allowed to settle permanently in Britain on the basis of unverified claims of domestic abuse, an immigration watchdog has found.
David Bolt, chief inspector of borders and immigration, warned the system where migrants from outside the European Union (EU) are allowed to settle if they have been subject to violence from a UK spouse or partner is “vulnerable to abuse”.
Officials should also not give too much weight to uncorroborated evidence from agencies that deal with domestic violence, and all claims should be verified where possible.
The Times reports that Mr Bolt also found the Home Office – which deals with migration claims – has not brought a single prosecution against migrants who lied about suffering abuse in order to obtain settlement status, and had not removed any migrants who had used deception to settle in Britain.
The number of applications to settle permanently in Britain on the basis of domestic abuse shot up from around 360 women in 2003 to 1,200 just five years later. The number has since fallen back, however, to just over 600 in 2013.
Mr Bolt’s report found that in such cases, significant weight was given to evidence that had not been independently verified, including “letters from support agencies, which relayed the applicant’s own account of abuse, rather than any independent confirmation or assessment.”
In 16 cases out of a sample of 25 where applicants had been granted to the right to settle, officials had not carried out any checks with police to see if the alleged domestic violence incidents had been reported.
“By placing significant weight on unverified evidence from support agencies that deal with domestic abuse victims, caseworkers handling Domestic Violence applications were not assessing evidence in line with current UKVI [UK Visas and Immigration] guidance,” the report says.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee , said: “The way in which the domestic violence concession is being dealt with by the Home Office is a cause for great concern. There is evidence to suggest that the system itself is being abused.”
A spokesman for the UK Home Office said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits, including any compelling and compassionate circumstances, and in line with the immigration rules. Following the report, we are reviewing our guidance to make it clearer how we assess evidence from support agencies.”