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The Guardian: Home Office providing details on returning home to asylum seekers ahead of claims

Date of Publication: 
3 April 2018
Summary: 

Letter sent to asylum seeker before main asylum interview has a 'Help and Advice on Returning Home' section

The Guardian: Home Office providing details on returning home to asylum seekers ahead of claims

03 April 2018
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Freedom From Torture told the Guardian yesterday that it was concerned by the revelation that the Home Office has been providing asylum seekers with details of how to return home to their country of origin before their asylum claims have even been considered.

The Guardian reported that it had seen a letter sent by the Home Office Asylum Routing Team to a new asylum seeker ahead of their main asylum interview which also included a 'Help and Advice on Returning Home' section. The section gave details of who to contact at the Home Office for asylum seekers who want to return home and outlined what help would be provided.

Such information has previously not been given to asylum seekers until after their application had been rejected, the Guardian noted.

Freedom From Torture's Sile Reynolds told the Guardian that the Home Office is already dogged by poor decision-making and that presenting return information at the start of an asylum claim would exacerbate these problems by implanting the idea that a claim is likely to be refused. Sile said this would cause vulnerable people to further distrust the system.

Immigration barrister Jan Doerfel said on Twitter that the letter was completely against due process and very underhand.

Amnesty International's Steve Valdez-Symonds asked: "How is someone fleeing persecution supposed to have confidence they'll get a fair hearing from a system so eager it cannot wait to inform them about returning to the conflict, torture & violence they've fled?"

A Home Office spokeswoman told the Guardian the UK had a proud history of granting asylum. She added: "Informing asylum seekers at an early stage about their options to leave the country on a voluntary basis has been part of Home Office practice for more than 10 years. We want to ensure people are fully aware of all the options available to them as early as possible in the asylum process. The letters state clearly that these options are voluntary."