Increase in Home Office attempts to withdraw asylum claims

Legal Updates

a 'closed' sign

On 7 August 2023, the Home Office issued updated guidance on the circumstances under which an asylum claim can be treated as withdrawn. It is important to be aware of these changes and take steps to ensure that your claim is not withdrawn.

When a case is ‘withdrawn’ this means that the Home Office will no longer consider it, and you will not receive a decision (of a grant of refugee status, or even a refusal that you can appeal). It will be as if you never made a claim for asylum.

This blog explains the changes, why they have been made by the Home Office, and what steps you can take to prevent your claim from being treated as withdrawn. 

The changes that have been made

The guidance is in paragraph 333C(b) of Part 11 of the Immigration Rules

We have put the updated bits in bold text.  

An application may be treated as implicitly withdrawn if the applicant:

  1. fails to maintain contact with the Home Office or provide up to date contact details as required by paragraph 358B of these Rules; or
  2. leaves the United Kingdom (without authorisation) at any time before the conclusion of their application for asylum; or
  3. fails to complete an asylum questionnaire as requested by or on behalf of the Secretary of State; or
  4. fails to attend any reporting events, unless the applicant demonstrates within a reasonable time that the failure was due to circumstances beyond their control; or
  5. fails to attend a personal interview required under paragraph 339NA, unless the applicant demonstrates within a reasonable time that that failure was due to circumstances beyond their control.

So, your asylum claim may be treated as withdrawn by the Home Office if:

  • You do not maintain contact with the Home Office (this means answering phone calls, acknowledging that you have received letters, and filling out any questionnaires they may send you like the Streamlined Asylum Processing questionnaire)
  • You do not update your contact details (including address and telephone number) with the Home Office
  • You do not attend a reporting appointment at a Home Office reporting centre, unless you can show that this was not your fault 
  • You do not attend a scheduled interview with the Home Office unless you can show that this was not your fault 

Why is this happening?

This Guardian article states that:

“…the Independent reported that thousands of cases had simply been marked as cleared without the claimant having been assessed. The news site reported that Home Office guidance allowed officials to unilaterally close cases, even where they had not been able to contact the claimant, with a letter to them simply being filed away.

It said many were closed because people did not attend interviews, quoting a Home Office official as saying: “This is done to basically bring the backlog down. A lot of interviews were booked to withdraw as many claims as possible [if people didn’t turn up].”

So, withdrawals are a Home Office effort to clear the backlog of over 160,000+ asylum decisions that it has yet to make. This reasoning is supported in this Free Movement blog about asylum claim withdrawals. The blog confirms that this is a terrible way to reduce the backlog of asylum decisions that the Home Office has yet to make – by stripping people of the right to have their case heard at all, for mistakes that might not even have been made by them. To learn more about the Home Office backlog, read our blog on delays.

It also states that the Home Office may actually have been acting unlawfully in withdrawing asylum claims between May 2023 and August 2023. This is because the two new additions for when a claim can be withdrawn (not updating contact details, and not attending a reporting appointment) because they were included in Home Office guidance for caseworkers (which is a policy) from May, but they were not put into the Immigration Rules and made into law until August 2023. 

Actions you can take

This is yet another appalling initiative which has scared many people in the asylum system, and we at Right to Remain do not condone it. Everyone should have the right to have their case heard fairly.

However, here are some actions you can take to prevent your case being withdrawn, or to have the withdrawal reversed. 

  • It is important to make sure that your contact details are up to date. You can do this by contacting Migrant Help and ensuring they have your most recent phone number, email address, and home address. Take screenshots of your call log, or of your chat on the Migrant Help website to keep a record of that fact that you have done this, in case the Home Office tries to dispute it. 
  • If you have not completed or submitted your Streamlined Asylum Processing Questionnaire to the Home Office by then stated deadline, you can read our blog to see what steps to take to reverse the withdrawal of your claim here
  • If you miss an interview (an Asylum Screening Interview, Substantive (Big) Interview, or Streamlined Asylum Processing interview) but it is not your fault, you can gather evidence to show this. For example, people in our community have said that they were invited to interview but the Home Office invitation letter did not reach their address until after the date of interview had passed. They can take a picture of the date stamp on the envelope (and the date on the letter) to show that this was not their fault and that their claim must not be treated as withdrawn. 
  • If your claim is treated as withdrawn by the Home Office, this could impact your asylum support (it may be refused or discontinued). If this happens, your support organisation can call the Asylum Support Appeals Project’s (ASAP) advice line for you on 020 3716 0283 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays between 2pm and 4pm.
  • To learn more about the withdrawal of asylum claims, you can read this detailed blog published by Free Movement. 

Migration Justice Project Northern Ireland have produced a guide for asylum seekers on how to prevent their claims from being withdrawn and translated it into Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya and Somali. Find the guides here

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