British Home Office officials are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for helping to ensure failed asylum seekers lose their attempts to stay in the country, documents have revealed.
Official guidance obtained by The Guardian shows immigration staff have been set a target of winning 70 per cent of tribunal cases in which asylum seekers appeal against government decisions that they should leave the UK. The officers are given incentives including gift vouchers, cash bonuses and extra holidays.
The Home Office confirmed high street vouchers for £25 (HK$320) or £50 were handed out to "recognise positive performance over a short period of time", including when officers "exceed their casework targets for a month".
Critics said it was a new low for officers to be rewarded for outcomes that meant asylum seekers being asked to leave the UK for countries where they claim to be facing persecution or war. The incentives undermine confidence in the fairness of the system, they say.
But the Home Office said the "success of officers in upholding asylum decisions" was only one of a range of criteria used to monitor staff performance.
It is understood officers are also judged on the effectiveness of their presentation and the strength of their cases and their compliance with official guidelines before getting rewards.
A Home Office spokesman declined to say how many vouchers had been given out to asylum and immigration staff. But a parliamentary answer reveals 11 high street shopping vouchers for £25 have been given out solely to presenting officers in asylum cases since July 2012 as a "one-off recognition of individual performance at court".
Mark Harper, a Home Office minister, said no vouchers had been issued purely for winning cases at the immigration tribunals, as several factors are taken into consideration.
Lawmaker Sarah Teather said the scheme "completely undermines any sense that the system will give a fair hearing to those who come here seeking sanctuary from war and persecution".
She added: "If the Home Office are really giving out shopping vouchers for officers who help ensure asylum seekers lose their appeals, that is a new low."