For the next time you hear about rejected asylum claims

If you want to know how credible official determinations on asylum claims are, it’s worth looking at the factors the relevant UK statute itself (s 8 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004) gives as ’specified types of behaviour‘ supporting a finding that a refugee’s account is not to be believed:

► failure without reasonable explanation to produce a passport on request;‘

If you think you’d be in danger if returned to your country of origin, would you give the authorities – whom you have no reason to trust and every reason to suspect – a document that makes it easy to send you back?

‚► production of a document that is not a valid passport as if it were. Note: there is no „reasonable explanation defence“ in this instance;‘

See above. Plus, falsified papers may be the only way for some people to be able to leave their country safely (or at all). It’s also not exactly unheard of for a state to deny passports, exit visas, etc. to people it’s persecuting in order to prevent them evading persecution. There are so many reasonable explanations for this in the context of running for one’s life that one can’t help but suspect that that is the whole reason a ‚reasonable explanation defence‘ is not permitted in this case.

‚► destruction, alteration or disposal of a passport, ticket or other travel document without reasonable explanation;‘

See above. And, of course, with all these ‚reasonable explanation‘ exceptions, it’s worth remembering that the reasonableness of one’s explanation will be assessed by people who have never even seriously contemplated how they’d go about fleeing the country if they were facing persecution. The courts have said that caseworkers shouldn’t base these determinations on what someone ‚genuinely fleeing for their life‘ (etc) would do, but decision-makers faced with situations so radically outside their experience can hardly do anything BUT rely on prejudice.

‚► failure without reasonable explanation to answer a question asked by a deciding authority;‘

This is so broad that it could be used to stitch up refugees by asking them unreasonable questions (humiliating, based on false premises, so vague as to be incomprehensible, irrelevant, invasion of privacy, etc etc etc) and then rubbishing their claims based on their supposed failure to answer the question to the caseworker’s satisfaction.

‚► failure to take advantage of a reasonable opportunity to make an asylum or human rights claim while in a safe country;‘

‚Safe country‘ does not mean that the country is necessarily safe. It simply means it’s been declared safe by governments looking to limit the number of successful asylum claims. Plus:

1. If you’re desperate to avoid being sent home because you have reason to believe you or your family will come to harm, and you’ve heard that country A will use any excuse to reject an asylum claim, but country B is more likely to give refugees a fair go, are you going to make your claim in country A merely because it happens to be on a list of ’safe countries‘ that you’ve never seen? Even though you have a much greater chance of being sent back to death or torture?

2. Running for your life isn’t the same thing as moving house to take a new job. You aren’t necessarily going to have a lot of time to prepare and make sure you’ve got the money and contacts you need in order to make a go of it. You probably don’t even speak the language (how many people would be conversant in every local language they’d encounter fleeing from Syria to, say, Britain by the overland route?).

You have to consider how you’ll live wherever you end up settling. If you know that one country has an established community of people who come from the same country as you and share your language and culture, that is an essential lifeline. It’s the difference between arriving penniless in a strange place and having to navigate the legal system and everything else with no assistance and no local knowledge, and having people who speak your language who will be able to give you a hand in making sense of it all.

‚► failure to make an asylum or human rights claim until notified of an immigration decision, unless the claim relies wholly on matters arising after the notification;‘

Again, if you’re fleeing for your life, you’re going to want to stay away from the place you’re fleeing from for as long as possible. If you can do that without having a punt with authorities you know nothing about and have no reason to trust (and thus risking deportation), chances are you’ll at least consider it. Once again, we have an arbitrary bullshit factor that makes perfect sense to bureaucrats, but has nothing to do with the reality of running for one’s life.

‚► failure to make an asylum or human rights claim before being arrested under an immigration provision, unless there was no reasonable opportunity to claim before the arrest or the claim relies wholly on matters arising after the arrest. ‚

See above.
These are the sorts of factors that can lead to people being sent back to countries they’ve taken considerable risks to get away from. Keep that in mind the next time your hear about asylum claims that are denied for lack of credibility.

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