How Lawyers can help young people in the Asylum System
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The UK offers asylum based on the criteria stated in the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Claiming asylum can be a traumatic experience. Having to relive the worst events in your life while you undergo a series of interviews and hearings is bad enough.
To be eligible to claim asylum in the UK, you must present your case that you are unable to live safely in any part of your own country because you fear persecution there. This persecution must be because of:
- Political Opinion
- Anything else that puts you at risk because of the social, cultural, religious or political situation in your country, for example, your gender, gender identity or sexual orientation
Important note: if the individual already claimed asylum in an EU country before their arrival in the UK, your claim for asylum may be ineligible.
When the other significant adults in young people’s lives, such as lawyers, social workers and foster carers, are not supportive, it compounds the suffering.
According to the UK Refugee Council, there were 19,170 asylum applications in the first three quarters of 2017. In quarter three of 2017, the top nationalities of those who applied for asylum were Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.
The Home Office often relies on “inconsistencies” to discredit a person who is seeking asylum. Most people seeking asylum have to tell their story several times – at their screening interview, at their asylum interview, to their solicitor when preparing a witness statement, and again when they give evidence at their appeal hearing.
They may also have to tell their story to other professionals outside the immigration system, such as to social workers in the context of an age assessment. Sometimes the Home Office argues that a person’s account has not been consistent between their screening interview, their asylum interview, their witness statement, and/or their evidence at the hearing, that a person’s account is not “plausible” in light of how they would be expected to act in a particular situation or is not consistent with “background country evidence” about the country they come from.
These arguments are commonly used by the Home Office. But there are many problems with the arguments. For instance:
People also act differently in different cultures. When the Home Office says that a young person’s story is not “plausible”, they are often viewing it through the lens of British culture, without a good understanding of how people behave in the country from which the young person comes. The courts have recognised that judges should be cautious about making findings based on “inherent plausibility”.
Asylum seekers are not used to recounting their story
The narration expected in the asylum process is generally outside the experience of many asylum seekers. Young people with limited education, from close rural, family or ethnic communities are likely to have had limited experience ordering facts about their lives or describing their fears and emotions to strangers.
There is limited understanding concerning the skills needed for active, fair participation in the asylum process and little if any consideration/patience/tolerance accorded to those manifestly finding the process very difficult.
Young people seeking asylum alone are vulnerable in multiple ways. Many have already suffered severe trauma in their home countries and/or on their journeys, coupled with the stress of separation from home and family and of being alone in an unfamiliar country. Often, they are left with little support when navigating an immigration system which can be callous and hostile.
It is essential that the adults in their lives – solicitors, barristers, social workers, foster carers and others – should understand what they are experiencing, and do everything we can to support them through the asylum process.
Everyone who works with young people seeking asylum needs to have a good understanding of the many factors which may inhibit a young person’s ability to tell their story – trauma, depression and anxiety, differences of language and culture, fear and confusion, and the ordinary fallibility of children’s memories, among others. In short, mental health literacy is essential for all those working in this field.
How to Apply
We understand that the asylum process can be complicated and confusing. We are able to advise and assist whether you have already claimed asylum, are thinking about doing so, your rights if you have been granted asylum and options if you have been refused.
Contact out London or Belfast Immigration Solicitors today and we can advise you on your personal circumstances and ensure that your best interests are taken care of.
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