The government last week introduced radical changes to the way asylum claims are made and processed, to take place with immediate effect.
From Wednesday 14 October, anyone who does not claim asylum at their port of entry will have to travel to Croydon to make their claim, regardless of where they arrived in the UK (around 90% of asylum claims are made this way). And for those who claimed asylum before March 2007, any further information they need to give about their claim, such as fresh evidence, medical reports or country information, will have to be taken in person to Liverpool.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We are appalled at these changes, which were brought in without any consultation or warning. Shutting down the option of claiming asylum in Liverpool, is unfair and unreasonable, forcing people in other parts of the United Kingdom to travel to Croydon just to ask for asylum. The asylum process needs to be more, not less accessible. People claiming asylum will include traumatised, vulnerable and exhausted families and individuals. Many will have travelled long distances already, and may be penniless.
“In addition, if people with older outstanding cases need to submit further evidence to ensure they are able to get a fair hearing, they will have to travel in person to Liverpool – up to now they could send their papers by post. There has been no consideration of childcare issues, and torture survivors are not exempt from this requirement. There has been little apparent consideration of the practicalities involved – some of the distances are so significant that it will be impossible to get there and back in a day. There is no provision of travel expenses or accommodation, leaving it virtually impossible for people who are destitute to have their case heard fully and fairly.
“The whole thing seems nothing more than a blatant attempt to make the asylum system even more inaccessible. But these are people’s lives we’re talking about – the government should be focusing on making sure people receive a fair hearing and are able to access the asylum process.”
The Refugee Council has written to the UK Border Agency to outline our concerns.