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‘Beyond Belief’ is a new report into the experience of the asylum interview of torture survivors seeking asylum in the UK. It calls for fundamental culture change at the Home Office.
For people fleeing persecution, the stakes of an asylum interview with the Home Office are extraordinarily high. It is the primary opportunity for survivors to explain what happened to them and why are afraid to return to their home country. If it is done badly, it can mean that someone is sent back to torture and persecution.
The report 'Beyond Belief: How the Home Office fails survivors of torture at the asylum interview' sheds light on a flawed system that lets so many down at this stage. It reveals an asylum system plagued by prejudice, insensitivity, a lack of compassion and a failure to see the human behind the application.
Here’s what we found:
In the asylum interview, torture survivors were often unable to give their full account of what had happened to them.
This was often because the Home Office’s own guidance which sets out how best to conduct asylum interviews was not followed. There was evidence of poor interview technique, unprofessional and insensitive behaviour and prejudging whether or not the survivor could be believed.
Accounts of torture were often treated as though they were not factually important in the asylum interview
Torture was often not identified as a key fact in asylum interviews despite the fact that a survivor’s account of torture is key in establishing if there is risk if they are returned to their home country. When a survivor revealed that they had been tortured in their asylum interview, interviewers often failed to follow-up sensitively, or to gather more evidence.
The individual needs, vulnerabilities and circumstances that the torture survivors brought into the asylum interview were often not considered.
More often than not torture survivors left the asylum interview feeling dehumanised, re-traumatised, and felt hopeless at getting a fair decision on their asylum claim.
The Home Office’s own guidance states that a ‘positive and secure environment’ where asylum seekers are treated with ‘respect, humanity, dignity and fairness’ is crucial for a successful asylum interview. But more often than not torture survivors left the asylum interview feeling dehumanised, re-traumatised, and felt hopeless at getting a fair decision on their asylum claim.
You’ve heard stories from survivors and you’ve read the report. Now it’s time to take action.