Updated: Mar 28
In 2020 we collected research interviews with Birmingham University as part of the SEREDA project. Then we were contacted by Jenny Phillimore to comment on the current Home Office Asylum Interview guidance as she was running a series of meetings with the Home Office discussing some of the problems with the asylum and immigration systems and how they interact with/generate and exacerbate SGBV, often undermining recovery.
From casework and discussions with women we suggested issues that the Home Office needed to consider, and had a few questions we wanted clarity on. Issues we highlighted on the policy:
Pg 13: Interview arrangements- interviewers are encouraged to build connect through eye contact, but eye contact for women is problematic, they tell me it’s rude to look people in the eye so they avoid eye contact, this may be a reason they are viewed as liars.
Pg 14: Appropriateness of video conferencing, as the majority of people have trauma and mental health issues- we suggest this is not an appropriate way to conduct interviews.
Pg 15: How do they monitor claimants not being obliged to recount experiences, I am told women are asked same thing in many different ways, often feeling interrogated and criminalised.
Pg 16: Childcare, we suggest that the Home Office should offer a crèche as standard, not if asked for as most women with kids don’t have childcare. Women ask friends as they don’t know there is another option.
Pg 18: How do they monitor claimants feeing well and being able to continue- what is the criteria for this?
Pg 19: How do they monitor claimants choice of language? I.e Oromo or Amharic, Amharic or Tigrenyan- interpreters do not speak honestly and clients are not confident to challenge bad interpreters.
Pg 20: Interpreters should automatically be female for women due to majority being GBV survivors, unless a male interpreter is asked for. We have reports of interpreters asking for sexual favours in return for them getting women's papers approved, and of an interpreter refusing to translate rape as he said it make his people look bad. Also interview after 6 weeks post baby- how do breastfeeding breaks work in practice for new mums?
Pg 21: Religious festivals- interviewing during Ramadan, when women are fasting is particularly difficult when theres traumatic interview content for women - is it fair for claimants? Is it going to get a clear story.
Pg 24: Video conference - the interpreter here not being seen can be a positive as this lowers community gossip around case- interpreters should be confidential but often interpreters are not professional and women we know hear their stories talked about within communities.
Pg 30: Emergency travel doc- to complete ETD papers in interview, this is not safe for claimants if they are facing persecution, therefore they should not be asked to complete this when being interviewed as it could cause stress and anxiety. At the start of the interview, it says explain claimant not obliged to answer upsetting questions, they can interrupt interviewer- does this happen and how is it monitored policy v practice? People feel that they expected to answer. If they don't answer they are told they are uncrediable in decsisions.
Pg 32: Documents and evidence at interview- note any original documents given on the interview record- should detail how will they be returned to claimant. One woman provided her dads death certificate and a journalist provided a notebook with coded evidence, both items were lost never returned.
Throughout reading the guidance the main thought was how is this policy monitored? What is reasonable, how assessed happening?
Pg 44: Level of detail - you should recognise, and provide appropriate sensitivity and awareness of trauma- what qualifications do they have for this?
Pg 58: Action after interview- time to give a decision. There needs to be an actual time respected and adhered to.
Pg 64" Languages at interview, claimant objects to interpreter because of ethnic origin or religion- ignored as interpreter deemed impartial and professional- this is questionable as ethnic politics means interpreters don’t always do their job well for people of other groups.