Refugee Council to criticise “culture of disbelief” at IAC hearing - Refugee Council
September 18, 2007

Refugee Council to criticise “culture of disbelief” at IAC hearing

This Thursday 20 September Charlotte Cooke, Refugee Council Head of Operations (Yorkshire ) will tell a hearing of the Independent Asylum Commission (IAC) of the enormous difficulties many asylum seekers face in getting a fair hearing in the asylum system, the problems they face getting legal representation and the adversarial nature of the system which she says seeks to “catch them out” in a way that “cannot be what was envisaged when the Refugee Convention was passed in 1951.” Among the IAC commissioners attending will be Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons and former High Court Judge Sir John Waite.

Ms Cooke will be addressing the Yorkshire hearing of the Independent Asylum Commission in Leeds this Thursday 20 September at 2.30pm. The Commission hearing will hear evidence from over a dozen witnesses, including several asylum seekers who will talk about their personal experiences. The hearing will be held in the Old School Board Building, on the corner of Great George Street and Calverley Street, Leeds.

Among those giving testimony will be a man who escaped from the conflict in Darfur only to end up sleeping rough in West Yorkshire last winter after his claim for asylum was refused and a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had to represent himself at his appeal hearing because he couldn’t get a lawyer. .

Charlotte Cooke said,

“We are glad to see that an independent, impartial commission will be taking a long hard look at way our Government deals with people fleeing persecution. All we want for asylum seekers is fairness, safety and dignity.”

“We will be telling the Commissioners that people who have survived persecution, torture and rape are confronted with an adversarial system looking to catch them out. This cannot be what was envisaged when the Refugee Convention was passed in 1951.”

“Too often we see a culture of disbelief, where judges and Home Office caseworkers look for any possible reason to fail a case or refuse an appeal. Often we see cases failed because of so called ‘credibility‘ issues. These are frequently due to errors in the system. In one typical case a man had three different translators at different stages in the process, who translated his name in three different ways. Because of this inconsistency his credibility was questioned and his case failed.”

The hearing will be followed by a “roadshow” event showcasing talent from refugees and asylum seekers from across the region. The roadshow will be held at The Carriageworks, Millenium Square, Leeds LS2 3AD from 7-8.30pm


1. The Independent Asylum Commission is collecting evidence for an impartial citizens enquiry into the UK asylum system. For a full list of commissioners and further details of the Independent Asylum Commission see . To contact the Independent Asylum Commission, or arrange interviews with Commissioners contact Jonathan Cox on 07919484066