Overview of the Asylum Screening Interview
If you are forced to leave your home country due to persecution and are unable to return there as there’s a credible threat to your life, you have the right to request humanitarian protection in another country. If you’re seeking refuge in another country, you are termed an ‘asylum seeker’.
The UK has defined processes and procedures for handling asylum requests. The asylum screening interview is the first meeting you will have with an immigration representative as part of this process. It is through screening that you register your claim for asylum, and your claim is put into the correct category. It is from screening that the Home Office will make a decision as to whether your claim can be submitted and if asylum proceedings can continue.
The screening interview doesn’t delve into too much detail about your circumstances and your reasons for making an asylum claim. Instead, it’s a way to mainly gather general biometric information and an overview as to the validity of your claim. If you pass the screening, you will attend a substantive interview that explores your specific circumstances in greater detail.
At your screening interview, as well as answering some general questions, you will also be photographed and have your fingerprints taken.
The screening interview covers fairly basic questions about yourself, your background, and your family. The sort of questions you might get asked cover topics like:
- Your personal details (name, date of birth, gender, ethnicity, spoken languageslanguges etc)
- Your occupation in your home country
- Any identification you have
- The country you’re fleeing persecution from
- Information about your family
- Your medical history
- Details of how you’ve travelled to the UK
- If you have a place to stay in the UK
- If you have any dependents in the UK
- If you’ve previously applied for asylum in the UK
- Whether you have any supporting documentation you might like to submit in support of your asylum claim
Reasons for Travelling to the UK
Though the questions may seem straightforward, the screening interview is a key part of the legal asylum process. It’s a chance for your interviewer to get an insight into your journey to the UK, which can influence the decision as to whether to continue with your claim.
Your interviewer will ask you why you have come to the UK. It’s important to note that this is different to asking why you cannot return to your home country, which is explored in far greater detail in your substantive interview. This question in your screening interview is asking why you specifically chose the UK as your destination to seek asylum as opposed to another country. They will likely also ask if you have claimed asylum or been granted refugee status in any other country.
This allows the Home Office to discern whether your motivations for travelling to the UK included reasons other than a need for protection. Note also that as of January 2021, the Home Office reserves the right to deem that an asylum claim is inadmissible if you passed through another country where you could have claimed asylum as you travelled to the UK.
Why You’re Seeking Asylum
You will also be asked to very briefly explain why you’rewhy it is you’re seeking asylum and if you feel you’re at risk of persecution if you return home. Again, this is explored much more deeply in your substantive interview, but will still be asked at screening. At this stage, this question is to help the Home Office properly categorise your case. Following your screening interview, your case will be placed into one of the following categories:
- Non-detained general casework
- Detained non-suspensive appeal
- Unoccupied minor
The categorisation of your claim can impact your case, and its potential likelihood of success. Following your screening interview, you will also be assigned a caseworker.
Questions about Criminality and Security
Your screening interview will also include questions about criminality and security. This will cover things like whether you have ever committed, or been accused of committing, a violent crime in any country, if you have been involved with any violent organisations, if you have ever produced any writing that incites or praises violence or if you have any involvement or suspected involvement with any of the following:
- War crimes
- Crimes against humanity
These questions look to determine whether, in the eyes of the Home Office, you should be excluded from refugee protection. The Refugee Convention contains articles relating to whether a person should be excluded from the protections the convention provides, stating that protection provisions don’t apply if an individual:
- Has committed a war crime, crime against peace or crime against humanity as defined by international law.
- Has committed a serious non-political crime outside of the country they look to seek refuge in.
- Has been found guilty of acts “contrary to the purposes and principle of the United Nations”.
The definitions are fairly broad and it’s largely down to the interpretation of the Home Office as to whether an individual’s potentially criminal activity satisfies these criteria for exclusion, which is why they will be explored at the screening stage. Screening interview questions on this topic will cover things like any previous convictions you might hold, any warrants against you and if you have ever been detained as an enemy combatant.
In terms of exclusions due to criminality, an applicant can also be denied access to refugee status if they have committed a serious crime within the UK and received a prison sentence of 12 months or more.
Preparing for the Screening Interview
Preparing for the screening interview basically involves thinking about the questions you’re likely to face and what supporting documentation you can provide to back-up your answers. On the most basic level, try to ensure that you can provide the following in terms of personal identification and travel details:
- Passport and other travel documentation
- Proof of identity (e.g. – identity card, birth certificate, official school records, marriage certificate)
- Police registration certificate and any other proof of your criminal record, or lack thereof
Also prepare any documentation or other written evidence that you feel can support your claim. In particular, think of any written attestation or formal evidence that supports the notion that you must seek asylum in the UK and/or it was not possible for you to gain asylum in any other country, particularly a country you travelled through on your way to the UK.
If you’re already in the UK when claiming asylum, there are a few additional pieces of evidence you need to provide to prove your UK address. If living in your own accommodation, you need something that shows your full name and address, such as:
- A bank statement or bank letter
- Utility and other household bills
- Council tax documentation
- Housing benefit documentation
- A tenancy agreement or lease
If you’re not in your own accommodation and living with someone else, you will need to provide at your asylum screening interview:
- A letter of no older than three months from the person you’re staying with confirming you’re living with them with their permission.
- A document like those listed above that showsshow the full name and address of the person you’re living with.
Asylum Screening Interview Tips
The screening interview is not as in-depthin depth as the substantive interview, but it still counts for a lot in terms of considering your asylum appeal. In particular, how well your answers from these two interviews match up can be a deciding factor in approving your claim. For this reason, the biggest tip for the interview is probably to answer with honesty. Any discrepancy between your screening and substantive interview responses might be seen as a deliberate act to mislead or deceive and could be used to support a decision to reject your claim.
Protect against this possibility occurring because of honest mistakes by making sure uncertain responses are properly noted as such. If you’re asked about dates relating to your travel to the UK, for instance, and you cannot remember with certainty – simply say this, or have it recorded that the date you’re providing is an estimate. If it should come out that the dates you provided don’t quite match up to those that come out as a result of your substantive interview, then it is a part of the official record that his was an honest mistake, rather than an attempt to deceive regarding your journey to the UK and motivations for seeking asylum here.
Indeed, make sure any concerns you have during the interview are a part of the official record. If you have any issues with the interpreter provided, for example, and you feel there are communication issues and your responses aren’t being accurately conveyed, ask that this is noted by your interviewer.
In terms of this official record, there will likely be no audio recording of your screening interview, but there will be a written transcript. Be sure to ask for a copy of this transcript after your interview. This way you have a written record of the interview, along with any concerns or issues that you’ve raised, that you can review ahead of subsequent stages of the application process. You can also provide this record to your lawyer for their input and advice as you progress through your asylum claim.
Lastly, look at the screening interview as not only an opportunity for an immigration interviewer to screen you, but also your first chance to ask questions or raise issues related to your claim. For example, if you should need accommodation or financial support from the Home Office while your asylum claim is processed, screening is your chance to make it known you wish to seek asylum support.
Though you cannot have legal representation accompany you to your screening interview, having legal input into your asylum claim can be extremely valuable. If you’re able to prior to your screening interview, meeting with a legal professional can help you prepare for the questions you might face and how you can best handle them. A lawyer can also review your supporting documentation and advise on any steps you can take to improve the chances of a favourable outcome to your screening.
And support can be hugely beneficial to you throughout your asylum claim. If you wish to appeal any exclusion from refugee status that might be put against you, for example, then seeking expert legal advice can be key to the strength of your appeal.
Beyond this, just the circumstances of needing to seek asylum means you’re probably already dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. Navigating the framework of the UK asylum process may only compound that stress, so let Manchester Immigration Lawyers help you. Our specialists can help advise you about any aspect of your asylum claim and support you in ensuring your claim has the best possible chance of success. Call us on 0161 826 9783 to speak to someone about your case, or contact us online.
Last modified on November 3rd, 2023 at 4:32 pm
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The exact process of organising your interview can vary depending on precisely when and where you claim asylum. In most cases, you will make your claim at the UK border when arriving in the country. Upon doing so, you will typically attend your screening interview there and then with an immigration officer.
You might also make an asylum claim some time after arriving in the UK. Perhaps you have already been in the UK, and a recent change in circumstances in your home country makes you eligible to make a claim for asylum. Upon doing this, you will then typically attend your screening interview at the screening unit in Croydon, though it’s possible you might attend your screening interview at a temporary location.
Indeed, if you have considerations such as health problems, disabilities or some other vulnerability that makes travellingtraveling to Croydon challenging, you might have your screening interview take place somewhere more local to where you’re living. Whether or not this accommodation is made, though, is at the discretion of the Home Office.
If making an asylum claim after having already entered the UK rather than at the border, you typically are required to contact the screening unit in Croydon to make your appointment and secure any arrangements you might need, such as the presence of an interpreter. If, though, you do not have anywhere to live in the UK, you shouldn’t need to book an appointment – if you simply attend the screening unit in person, you should be seen as a walk-in. You might be asked to prove your living situation before being accepted as a walk-in, so consider having a friend or other supporter write a letter confirming your situation.
If you have family members who are a part of your asylum claim, they need to attend the screening interview with you. The Croydon screening unit has family room facilities where children can play while you attend the asylum screening interview, but it may be advisable to see if a friend can accompany you to look after your children while you’re interviewed.
If you are detained following your screening interview, this means the Home Office will place you in a holding facility, rather than you staying at home or elsewhere in the community. You will be unable to leave this facility without permission and may have limitations on your freedom of movement within the facility.
You will still undergo a substantive interview after screening. The ‘non-suspensive appeal’ categorisation refers to the fact that you will have no right to appeal within the UK should the Home Office refuse your asylum claim after your substantive interview. ‘Non-suspensive’ in this context is in reference to the fact that the Home Office doesn’t need to suspend, or stop, your removal until after you have had the opportunity to appeal the refusal of your claim.
The Home Office makes a decision on your claim’s categorisation after your screening interview, ahead of your substantive interview. Their reasoning for categorisation takes into account a number of factors. The Home Office may categorise your claim detained non-suspensive appeal if they consider your country of origin to be generally safe, for instance.
The length of your screening interview can vary depending on the specifics of your claim, though it will be significantly shorter than your substantive interview. Generally, you can expect your screening interview to last between 30 minutes and two hours.