UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff processing UK visa applications from Africa are "acting unfairly" and wrongly refusing entry, an independent report has claimed.
Many UK visa applications have been incorrectly rejected after UKBA employees "disregarded or misinterpreted" evidence, with some applicants being refused for failing to provide information that had not been originally requested, according to the chief inspector to the agency, John Vine.
The agency responded that it took the findings "seriously" and would improve training. Mr Vine's inspection occurred between May and July 2011, examining the applications handled at three overseas UKBA posts in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya as well as the Croydon, south London office - which deals with Algerian-based applications.
In a review of 135 visa applications from Nigeria, the report found the UKBA had made a "serious error" with 14 cases receiving "indefinite leave to enter the UK" - rather than the usual 27-month duration.
In other case cases, UKBA staff had failed to retain documents supporting their decisions. Various additional reasons for UK visa rejections were listed in the report. In one case, an applicant wishing to visit his uncle in the UK was turned down because they had different family names.
UKBA's visa bases in Abuja, Nigeria; in Pretoria, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya had "performed well" to meet customer service targets, Mr Vine found.
But staff at Croydon's Visa Section in the UK had been "poor" in processing applications made in Algiers, Algeria. He reported UK Embassy staff opinion, in Algeria, that the visa delays had caused "reputational damage" to the UK.
Mr Vine said that little progress had been made by the UKBA in a number of areas, even though recommendations had been made in previous inspections. "This is especially frustrating", he said, "considering the agency has accepted the recommendations, and yet I continue to identify the same issues.
"I would now like to see these recommendations being embraced by the agency without delay to ensure that there is a real improvement in the quality and consistency of decision making."
A UKBA spokesman responded that the agency was prioritising reforms and improvements. He said: "We take the independent chief inspector's findings seriously and are making reforms, which include providing detailed guidance to applicants and improving the training for staff handling visa applications.
"The UKBA must offer a high quality service for genuine applicants while ensuring that those who do not meet the immigration rules are prevented from entering the UK."