This blog was updated on 24 July 2023 to reflect the inclusion of Iraqi and Iranian claims made before 28 June 2022.
20 June 2023 – to reflect the inclusion of Sudanese claims, and the expansion of dates.
22 May 2023- to include further clarification provided by the Immigration Minister about the completion of the form
31 March 2023- to include information about the children’s streamlining asylum process
22 March 2023- to share new information about the questionnaire, such as Refugee Action’s resources
2 March 2023- originally published
In this Legal Update, you will find information about:
- The adult streamlined asylum process
- What do we know about this policy?
- Legal support vs. legal advice
- What to do if you/a friend receive a questionnaire
- Children and the streamlined asylum process
- Clarification from the Immigration Minister
Adult streamlined asylum process
On 23 February 2023, the Home Office introduced a new ‘streamlined asylum processing’ policy, where some people seeking asylum will have to complete a questionnaire (this means a form) instead of having an interview.
This policy initially applied to adults from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen who claimed asylum and who have not had an asylum substantive (big) interview.
In May 2023, the policy was expanded to include claims made by Iraqi and Iranian people (over the age of 18) who claimed before 28 June 2022. You can find out more here.
In June 2023, the policy was expanded to include claims made from before 28 June 2022 until 7 March 2023.
It was also expanded to include asylum claims made by Sudanese people on or after 28 June 2022.
To check if you have already had your big interview, read our Toolkit page below.
What do we know about the new policy?
What we know about the policy and questionnaire so far comes from this Home Office guidance document. The document explains the policy to Home Office caseworkers.
The Migration Justice Project at Law Centre NI have published a very useful and simply presented document answering the key questions we all have about the questionnaire, such as deadlines, what happens after a questionnaire is submitted, and whether you need a lawyer to complete the questionnaire.
You can access the document by clicking here.
Legal support vs. legal advice
A key issue is whether or not you need a lawyer or immigration advisor to help you fill out the questionnaire.
There has been a lot of confusion, because the Home Office states in the form that “a friend who does understand English can also assist you to explain why you are claiming asylum, but they must not provide you with immigration advice”.
However, the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (sometimes called ‘OISC’), which is the UK regulator for immigration advisors released a statement to say that:
While only regulated legal advisers working at Level 2 & above can provide asylum advice to claimants completing the Asylum Claim Questionnaire, you can offer unregulated assistance relating to language issues and technicalities of completing/submitting the forms.
You can read the full statement on OISC’s position here.
While someone who is not a lawyer is technically allowed to help with certain parts of filling out the form, this cannot cross over into providing legal advice. This is a tricky balance. If someone who is not qualified to provide legal advice does so anyway, they could face criminal charges.
At Right to Remain, much of our work is focused upon empowering people to provide legal support, even if they are not legal advisers. This includes providing emotional, moral, and practical support to people who are in the legal system, without providing advice.
To learn more about the difference between providing legal support and legal advice, read our Toolkit page.
What to do if you or someone you support receives a questionnaire
Refugee Action have published a helpful page to the Streamlined Asylum Processing questionnaire. The page includes:
- Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the questionnaire available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Dari, Farsi, Kurdish Karmanji, Kurdish Sorani, Tigrinya
- Guidance for what non-profit caseworkers can/cannot do to help someone who has received an asylum questionnaire
- Resources for volunteers working with people seeking asylum
- A template letter to request an extension of the deadline from the Home Office
- A template letter to provide evidence of local legal aid capacity which can be attached to the extension request
- Translations of the questionnaire (for which Refugee Action cannot guarantee accuracy)
Visit the webpage and take a look at all of these resources by clicking below.
Streamlined asylum process for children
On the 16th March 2023, the Home Office announced it would start a new streamlined asylum process for certain groups of children. The process for children is different to the process for adults.
The streamlined asylum process for children applies to children from the following 5 countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam who claimed asylum before 28 June 2022. The process only applies to those children who have made a first asylum claim.
**These 5 nationalities are different to those in the adult streamlining process.**
It applies to accompanied (those with family) and unaccompanied (those without a parent or guardian) children. Children who have turned 18 while waiting for an asylum decision will be part of the children’s streamlining process, even though they are now over 18.
What do we know about the new policy?
Children who are part of this process will be invited to attend a preliminary information meeting, sometimes shortened to a ‘PIM’. The child’s responsible adult will be informed, and so should their legal representative.
Children can be called to a PIM after their welfare interview and can be before they have submitted a Statement of Evidence Form.
Children will only be called for a PIM after they have been in local authority care for two weeks.
What happens at the meeting?
PIMS can take place in person or online. There should be an interpreter present if needed. Children called to attend a PIM can request the gender of the interpreter or Home Office caseworker, and requests should be submitted 3 days before the meeting.
Legal representatives are able to attend these meetings and it is covered by legal aid.
If the child does not have a legal representative, and attends a PIM, the responsible adult should take notes before, during and after the PIM. These will be useful if the child is not granted asylum and is called for a further interview.
In the PIM, the decision makers will ask questions about the child’s nationality, the basis of their claim, their family, any evidence submitted, and welfare issues. There should be no issues of credibility raised at the meeting.
The purpose of the PIM is to see if asylum can be granted without any further interviews. No child will be refused asylum on the basis of a PIM – only a positive asylum decision may be issued. If it is not, the child may then be asked to submit a Statement of Evidence form and attend a substantive interview.
Clarification from the Immigration Minister
On 1 March 2023, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) wrote a Joint Letter to the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, asking for further detail on and making recommendations for a number of issues surrounding the Streamlined Asylum Process and accompanying questionnaire. You can read more about the Joint Letter by clicking here.
On 2 May 2023, the Minister sent a response to their letter. Some of the points he clarified include:
- Withdrawal of asylum claims: If someone does not respond to the questionnaire and it is through no fault of their own, the Home Office will take into consideration their personal circumstances and will not withdraw their asylum claim. Any explanations for non-return will be considered and asylum claims will not be withdrawn if there is a reasonable explanation.
- If someone has not received the questionnaire for reasons beyond their control, it will not be held against them.
- Asylum claims will be withdrawn for people who explicitly tell the Home Office that they no longer wish to pursue their claim, or for people who do not comply or avoid communicating with the Home Office.
- If someone’s claim has been (correctly) withdrawn and then they want to engage with the Home Office at a later date, they can submit Further Submissions (see the full letter for details).
- Language: There does not appear to be any progress in having the questionnaire translated into a language other than English. The Minister argues that all Home Office communications are carried out in English so that staff can understand.
- Families with children: If a person has children as dependents on their claim and they received a questionnaire, only the main claimant adult will have to fill out one questionnaire for themselves and their dependents. The streamlined asylum processing questionnaire for families in this situation is to be applied with the Family Asylum Claims Policy.
- Legal representatives: The Minister wrote that the majority of those who were sent the questionnaire have a legal representative, according to Home Office records. The Minister re-states that there is no need for legal advice or representation to be able to fill out the questionnaire, and that if a person who receives the questionnaire cannot complete it because they do not speak or write English, this will be considered by the Home Office.
- Update contact details: The Minister urges people to make sure their contact details as recorded by the Home Office are up to date.
- Credibility: The Minister says that the Home Office staff will make a distinction between minor errors in translation (for people who fill out the form and do not write English natively) and core discrepancies (this means big differences) between someone’s questionnaire and the evidence they submit. Core discrepancies will impact upon someone’s credibility (this means whether the Home Office believes them), but minor errors or differences will not.
- Interviews: The letter days that if someone’s completed questionnaire does not provide enough information for the Home Office to grant them refugee status, they will be invited for an interview much like the Asylum Substantive Interview.
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