The UK Home Office has announced a change in procedures for submitting further submissions on asylum and human rights applications. All submissions will now have to be made in person, in Liverpool.
UPDATE: Following a legal challenge, the introduction of this new process has been delayed for an unspecified period.
From 26 January 2015, there will be changes to the process for making further submissions – that is, for new asylum claims by those who are “appeal rights exhausted”.
Currently there are two processes – one for asylum claims lodged prior to 5 March 2007, where further submissions are 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 can be submitted either via appointment at a UK Visas and Immigration reporting centre, or at a regular reporting event.
From 26 January, anyone wishing to submit further submissions in pursuance of their asylum or human rights application will have to phone to make an appointment at the Home Office in Liverpool. The main reason for this appears to be that it “makes good business sense” for the Home Office to have the further submissions determination process centralised in Liverpool.
You can find more details on the new process, and the Home Office announcement letter, on our Legal Updates blog.
For a great many people, the process of arranging and travelling to these appointments in Liverpool, rather than as at present doing it in their local area, will be a very significant barrier to pursuing their application for protection. Many will be required to travel hundreds of miles, with no reimbursement of travel expense, even for those who have no cash support at all.
In fact, the barriers could be so significant that they amount to a direct impediment to the legal right to seek sanctuary under the Refugee Convention or European Convention on Human Rights. Will we see a legal challenge to this new procedure?
Of course, for some people, those with older cases, this procedure is not new. People in the Older Live Cases process had to make the trip to Liverpool. A couple of years ago, I was in the office of a community group we work with, as they tried for hours to help someone get an appointment to submit a fresh claim based on a new Country Guidance case. (and I’ve heard similar stories from so many people…)
The Home Office worker taking the call was refusing to arrange an appointment, and just kept saying – no, she’s appeal rights exhausted, has been for years, she can’t possibly have new evidence that wasn’t available before. The applicant was so upset that she could hardly speak. Eventually I helped out, put on my best authoritative voice, quoted some rules and case law, and an appointment was, reluctantly, made. An early morning appointment, hundreds of miles away, meaning the applicant had to travel overnight. And had to get people to pay her fare, and give her food for the journeys as she was destitute. And people had to be found to meet her at the other end to accompany her, as she was so stressed, worried she’d get lost.
She managed it all, somehow, and was granted refugee status after a few months. But the barriers, the gatekeeping were just outrageous. Many others, with perfectly clear and compelling evidence to submit would never had made it through the system. So many just give up, especially those without supporters to help them get through.
So, it looks like the new rules will mean more of this for “customers” of the Home Office. Hopefully we will see a legal challenge. Meanwhile, we had better start gearing up to find ways to support people seeking sanctuary to overcome yet another barrier to justice and safety.
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