The government has pledged to deal with more than 90,000 asylum claims by the end of 2023 that were submitted before June 2022. All asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, Yemen and Libya who made a claim before that date will be subject to a new interview-free system.
The claimants will be sent a ten-page questionnaire asking them to provide evidence supporting their asylum application. If immigration caseworkers then believe that they have submitted sufficient evidence they will be granted asylum without an interview.
Slough Refugee Support is encouraged that this announcement acknowledges the huge backlog of outstanding asylum claims. However, we hope to see the following assurances made to improve this new process:
The questionnaire, and guidance for completing it, to be made available in relevant languages.
The decision to expediate claims from certain countries cannot be used to delegitimise claimants of other nationalities as part of the 'differentiated treatment' of refugees.
Applicants must have access to legal representatives when completing these questionnaires. The shortage of legal aid providers and the 20-day turnaround on questionnaires makes this challenging.
The cases of applicants who do not return the questionnaire within 20 days should not be considered withdrawn.
The Home Office must recognise the additional responsibility placed on charities, including our partner organisations, to ensure the right support is in place for those completing questionnaires.
Slough Refugee Support will do all in its powers to assist claimants who are eligible under this scheme. However, we realise that this will be a great challenge and the above assurances need to be in place.