§ Lord Harris of Haringey
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many asylum applicants accommodated in the south-east of England have been required by the Immigration and Nationality Department to attend interviews in Liverpool; and in how many instances has:
- (a) the Nationality Asylum Support Service (N.kSS) had to provide a ticket, and at what cost;
- (b) the NASS had to provide overnight accommodation because of rail difficulties;
- (c) an applicant missed the appointment because of rail difficulties; and
- (d) the interview been scheduled so as to require full-priced travel as opposed to off-peak travel. [HL 134]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)
The information available is that between 13 November and 4 December, 2,883 asylum interviews were booked for the Liverpool and Leeds offices of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) These include interviews for applicants from the South East as well as the North East, Scotland and South Wales. For the same period, the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) provided 20 travel warrants for travel from the South-East to Liverpool. NASS has provided overnight accommodation in a few instances where applicants encourtered rail difficulties. I regret that it is not possible to separate travel costs for interview purposes from overall NASS dispersal travel costs.
During the week commencing 13 November, 43 interviews were cancelled because of disruption to the rail network. This number has fallen subsequently, with five interviews being cancelled for this reason during the week commencing 4 December.
The majority of asylum interviews are held at the IND offices in Croydon. This is where the main casework operation is located. Effort is made to take account of the applicant's location when booking an asylum interview where possible, but consideration of the location and scheduled start time is very much based on facilities and optimising available resources. This is essential if IND is to deliver the White Paper target to take most initial asylum decisions within two months from April 2001.
Given the volume of interviews booked for the Liverpool and Leeds office, it is not always possible or practicable to book interviews later in the day for applicants travelling long distances. It is inevitable therefore that a proportion of applicants will be required to travel during peak travel periods at some stage of their journey.