Posted on Updated on

English: Chart showing in-country UK immigrati...
English: Chart showing in-country UK immigration removals, (failed asylum seekers and others), since 1993 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media is fond of shining a spotlight on our asylum system, it makes good copy or TV. Its not the best way of running a debate but it does illustrate a reality that should not be overlooked. Britain like the rest of developed Europe is facing increasing asylum demands, probably in the region of 70% increase in the last 8 years.

The influx of asylum seekers is as a direct consequence of the numerous conflicts and wars around the globe. Asylum of itself is not a problem and should never be seen in terms of being a problem, its the fact that there is at the same time massive economic migration going on. Asylum is a tradition of most developed western European nations, a proud tradition in most cases and it must be preserved, it must be accepted that we are fortunate and have the honor of assisting those who need our help. I find it shocking that there are some who reside in this country who feel differently.

Nonetheless, it might be fair to comment that our processing centers are perhaps close to full and stretched for staff. The cracks are becoming obvious. The system is unable to deal with complex situations meaning it slows and blocks preventing those who might most need our help from getting it because we just don’t know they need it.

We should feel rightly proud that asylum seekers come to our countries with the intention of seeking help and maybe even settling on a more permanent basis. The contribute to the wealth (economically and culturally) to our societies. But its clear that the social support systems cannot support these people, those employed to help, the case-workers burn-out with massive levels of sickness absence. All the time the human tragedies build. There is a need to protect the individuals but also there is a need for process which is at best a delayed process.

I would agree with anybody who said reform is urgently needed. Without question we should not settle for half measures, current failures should be corrected, but not at any cost. The economic cost of failure is mounting but so is the probable economic cost of doing the job right. My experience in industry is that doing something right first time is the most economically cost effective way of doing a job. I have no doubt that the same apply’s to the asylum system.

Delays might be necessary, so improved holding centers to accommodate the asylum seekers while the initial checks are being done would be a really good start. Simplification of procedures and processes would also help greatly. These two factors would simply add to the quality and speed of service provided, making it more respectful and certain in outcome.

A win-win in anybody’s language I guess.

At the borders of course better directional control would be needed, this is not a resources issue but probably a training and information issue.

And then once a final decision is made the person if successful should be assimilated into society. With a fully renovated procedure the asylum seeker and society will be both better served.

Final decisions are important and really need to be as speedy as possible. I’m sure most would agree that an asylum seeker should not have to face an almost endless wait on deportation or not. There has got to be clear pathways for those who do not gain asylum, they should not be expected to wait for an appropriate moment for return to their own country.  Our collective responsibility as a European Union should be ensuring those who want and need out help can access it but those who do not are dealt with firmly, fairly and quickly.

System, System, System, Soft Systems Methodology

Posted on Updated on

We all use the word system a lot when talking about a whole range of things… computer system, information system, ‘the system’ meaning a way of doing things normally with some sort of negative or sinister overtone but not always. Basically so far as I can see there are 3 distinct uses of the word:

  1. A way of doing things, of organizing things, resources and procedures
  2. A fixed or hard system; a computer system for example
  3. A specialized system, a conceptualized way of organizing resources and procedures according to a systems theory

Another governing principle is that of emergence; simply expressed as the sum is greater than the whole. So for example a factory operates with direct labour (those doing hands-on work) and indirect labour (those who do administrative work, management work, delivery drivers, maintenance staff, warehouse staff…) to make the factory work.

Systems thinking has come to be known as either hard or soft systems thinking. Hard systems are those where behavior can be reasonably predicted, normally where mechanical components interact in an organised, predictable way. Soft systems by contrast are where human activity is concerned and are a lot less predictable by nature. Organisational problems are a lot less clear-cut, and are a lot more complex in nature.

My thinking tends towards seeing systems problems through the lens of complexity, a system is an intellectual construct designed to make sense of a given situation or event, they help us deal with the enormous complexity of the (real) world.

By making a conceptual model of the world and comparing this to the real world its surprising how quickly difficulties and problems in the actual real world organisational system can be uncovered. Multifaceted problems become more apparent and quantifiable and the possible solutions are more easily teased out of the problem situation. Conceptual models are not representations of the real world, but are a conceptualization of potential real world systems. Soft Systems Methodology therefore is not about real world systems but about applying systems methodologies (systems thinking) to things that happen in the real world. It is best carried out with the full co-operation of those involved in the real world organisation with a facilitator to help and guide.


Each conceptual system has at its heart a transformation process; input into and output. A very powerful concept accompanying the transformation process is that of weltanschauung (world view) – what makes the transformation worth doing! So the components are:

Customers – the victims or beneficiaries of the transformation process

Actors – those who do the transformation process

Transformation – input to output

Weltanschauung – the world view that makes the transformation meaningful

Owners – those who have the power to stop the transformation

Environmental Constraints – elements outside the process that can influence the process

Monitoring and Control Measures

E1 – Efficacy; does the system work? has the transformation taken place?

E2 – Efficiency; what are the resources needed to achieve the output? Is the system worthwhile?

E3 – Effectiveness; can the system achieve its longer term goals?

As a part of the Soft Systems Methodology intervention it is central and important that the 3 E’s are understood, measurable and agreed by all involved as appropriate measures of the intervention success.