A Sudanese asylum seeker is beginning legal proceedings against the Home Office, over a questionnaire distributed to over 12,000 asylum seekers, on the basis that it is discriminatory.
The Home Office questionnaire is being distributed only to asylum seekers from five countries (Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen) with high asylum success rates. However, the policy is under fire as it ignores other countries with high asylum grant rates, such as Sudan where 84% of applicants are successful.
Further criticism has been made of the nature and implementation of the policy which requires the asylum seekers to answer fifty complex questions, all of which are in English, within a stringent 20 day time limit. The Home Office has endorsed the use of Google Translate to assist with translation, but Ruth Miller, who teaches English to asylum seekers in Lesbos, told The Guardian “[t]he proposed questionnaire would be very difficult for a native speaker to complete unaided, let alone an asylum seeker.”
There are additional concerns over the sensitivity of the questions asked, and whether asylum seekers will be willing to disclose abuse, torture or persecution on a faceless form. This is intensified with migrants from Libya (or the many who travel through there) as such mistreatment is sadly common. The Home Office has acknowledged this issue and will determine “on a case-by-case basis, if the questionnaire is not suitable for the individual.”
Martin Bridger, the lawyer responsible for bringing the action on behalf of the Sudanese man, told the Guardian “[w]e believe that the policy is discriminatory because it excludes asylum seekers from certain countries and is only available in English… We are also concerned that the time frame of 20 days prevents access to legal advice. This is not sufficient time.”
The Home Office has responded stating that “The majority of asylum seekers who will be receiving the questionnaire already have legal representatives who can help them with translation, if required.”
Research carried out by legal website Freemovement.org.uk, recently found almost half of asylum seekers do not have access to legal aid.