An article by May Bulman in the Independent this week revealed that the number of “fresh claims” has more halved, attributed to a change in procedure for lodging the claims with the Home Office.
The change in procedure
In 2015, the Home Office changed the procedure for presenting new evidence after an asylum claim had been refused.
Prior to 2015 there were two processes – one for asylum claims lodged prior to 5 March 2007, where further submissions were made in person to the Older Live Cases Unit in Liverpool, and one for asylum cases lodged on or after March 2007, where further submissions could be submitted either via appointment, or at a regular reporting event at your local Home Office reporting centre.
After 2015, despite a legal challenge, almost all people wanting to give new evidence to the Home Office had to travel, unfunded, to Liverpool no matter where in Britain they were based (the procedure in Northern Ireland is different).
What is a fresh claim?
Further submissions/evidence can be given to the Home Office at any point after an asylum claim or human rights application is refused, but a fresh claim can only be made when you are “appeal rights exhausted”.
You or your lawyer give the Home Office the further submissions (new evidence or documentation) and the Home Office decides if it’s a fresh claim, using a specific legal test.
The legal test the Home Office should apply is whether the evidence you have submitted is “significantly different from the material that has previously been considered” and “taken together with the previously considered material, create[s] a realistic prospect of success”.
Although the evidence you submit is not technically a “fresh claim” unless the Home Office says it is, people tend to use the term more widely than this. For example, gathering evidence to be submitted to be considered as a fresh claim is more easily phrased “preparing a fresh claim”.
Drop in fresh claims
May Bulman reports:
A new analysis of government figures shows that since the policy was changed, the number of people making fresh claims has more than halved, plummeting from 162 in 2014 to just 70 in 2017. The overall number of people applying for asylum has risen by 6 per cent in the same period.
Note that the “number of people making fresh claims” here refers to the number of cases in which the Home Office has accepted the submissions pass the fresh claim test (see above), not the number of people submitting evidence to be considered as a fresh claim.
The change in procedure – making people travel to Liverpool – was widely seen at the time as a way to deter people from pursuing their legal cases, and seems to have been successful (from the Home Office’s perspective).
The Scottish Refugee Council explain in the article that they had helped around “135 asylum seekers to make the journey from Glasgow to Liverpool each year at a cost of about £72 each for travel and food – or £9,700 overall.”.
Kent Refugee Action Network gave the example of a “22-year-old who is profoundly deaf and has learning difficulties, but faces having to make the journey after his asylum claim was refused last year”.
Is this about to change?
At the end of March, the Home Office announced it had opened seven new appointment centres for “particularly complex immigration cases”, which in a previous statement they had said included “making further submissions after a failed asylum claim”.
The centres are in Belfast, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield and Solihull. The applicant in theory still contacts a central phone number, then the Home Office will allocate an appointment centre.
However, we have yet to hear of anyone making further submissions being given an appointment anywhere apart from Liverpool. Asylum support groups have confirmed their members are still only getting Liverpool appointments, and one person relayed that they had shown the information about the new centres to staff at their local reporting centre, who knew nothing about it.
Do get in touch if you have heard of anyone being given an asylum/human rights further submissions appointment elsewhere! You can comment below, or contact us via email.
Other barriers to accessing justice
The difficulty of travelling to Liverpool is not the only barrier to people establishing their legal rights. Of course, there are a huge range of obstacles including a lack of legal aid which we wrote about recently here.
More specifically to the fresh claim process, we are routinely being contacted by people who simply cannot get through on the appointment phone line. People are trying for weeks with no success. We wrote about that, and a few possible actions to take here.
And if you do get through?
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