In February, I wrote about whistleblower Louise Perrett who claimed that UK Border Agency staff in Cardiff routinely mistreat, trick and humiliate asylum seekers. She alleged UKBA staff:
- kept a toy gorilla, known as the "grant monkey", which they placed "as a badge of shame" on the desk of anyone who approved an asylum application;
- determined the authenticity of North Korean asylum seekers by asking whether they "ate chop suey";
- made boys forcibly conscripted as child soldiers in Africa lie down on the floor to demonstrate how they shot at people "in the bush" (again, supposedly to determine their credibility);
- deported a Congolese woman and her children even though they had the right to remain in the UK (when Ms. Perrett approached the legal department about the case, they said "umbongo, umbongo, they kill them in the Congo");
- gave her the power to grant or refuse applications and detain adult and child asylum seekers for periods of up to 28 daysafter only five weeks' training.
The UKBA's Professional Standards Unit has now published a report on the claims.
It finds that all Ms Perrett's allegations are 'unsubstantiated' except the one about the "toy monkey".
Whilst investigators found that Ms Perrett, 29, 'misinterpreted the significance' of the monkey, they accepted that 'her misconception of it could have been felt by others and as such it was unwelcome'.
They also found that the "grant monkey" was not used as a badge of shame as alleged, but accepted that its subsequent removal from the office was correct.
The report also criticises the handling of Ms Perrett's concerns about staff conduct. It states: 'As an agency member of staff she felt unable to raise her concerns through any formal process. Concerns that she raised informally were not documented which the report finds disappointing.'
Commenting on the report's findings, Perrett said: "This investigation makes me think that UKBA believed my claims all along, but their work was hindered by the Public and Commercial Services Union.
"My reasons for speaking publicly about my experiences of working for this organisation was to effect cultural change within and ensure that those who seek refuge are treated with dignity and respect and are able to make a claim for asylum without prejudice. I hope the training and procedures to be implemented as a result of this investigation will ensure this."
In its response to the investigation, UKBA said: "We believe that this has been a useful exercise for the UK Border Agency and are sure that our agency will be the better for it. We welcome the chance this has given us to have a focused look at ourselves and devise a response accordingly."
- Investigation into the allegations made by Louise Perrett (Professional Standards Unit, UK Border Agency)
- Response to Professional Standards Unit investigation into allegations made by Louise Perrett (UK Border Agency)
- UK Border Agency investigation finds cause for 'significant concern' (Guardian)
- UK Border Agency 'mistreat, trick & humiliate' asylum seekers (The Solicitor)
- Latest immigration law news (The Solicitor)
- Immigration law Q&A (Community forum)
- Immigration law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Find an immigration solicitor (Contact Law)