HL Deb 22 October 2003 vol 653 cc178-9WA
Lord Tomlinson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they plan to announce the outcome of the pilot testing of language analysis in determining selected asylum applications. [HL4990]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

We are pleased to announce the outcome of the pilot testing of language analysis to help determine asylum claims from selected applicants who claimed to be nationals of Afghanistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. The pilot was established in the light of concerns that some asylum seekers were posing falsely as nationals of these three countries. Its purpose was to assess the potential value of language analysis in providing expert evidence to identify the place of origin of asylum seekers, and to detect and deter abuse of the asylum system.

Evaluation of the decisions and appeals outcomes for cases in the three-country pilot to the end of July this year has shown that language analysis is a valuable aid in detecting false nationals (9 per cent of the total number of applicants selected for the pilot and 21 per cent of claimed Somali nationals) and in delivering robust and effective decisions. The percentage of outright refusal decisions was 78 per cent compared with 51 per cent for the pilot nationalities as a whole in 2002. In cases where appeal rights have been exhausted the percentage of decisions upheld (86 per cent) was also higher than the norm (68 per cent for these nationalities, in 2002).

In order to address continuing concerns about abuse of the asylum system and in the light of the initial and similarly encouraging results from the subsequent Iraqi language analysis pilot, we have decided to commission further work to take forward the wider introduction of language analysis. To achieve maximum benefit, this will form part of the asylum screening process, and will be targeted on cases where claiming a false nationality would give rise to a greater likelihood of being granted asylum, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave.

The evaluation of the appeals outcomes for cases in the three-country pilot found that challenges to the reports have focused on the credentials of individual language analysts. It is of course essential that the reports are accepted as credible evidence at appeal and that failed applicants are removed from the UK. This demonstrates the need to ensure that the credentials of the language analysis bureau and their analysts meet the requirements of the Immigration Appellate Authority. Among other options, we will be considering the feasibility of establishing a language analysis bureau in the UK to address this issue.

The Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, who reports to Parliament via the Secretary of State, will exercise independent scrutiny of the operation of language analysis.

A copy of the summary of findings of the three-country language analysis pilot has been placed in the Library of the House.