Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Asylum Aid (ASY 02)

About Asylum Aid

Asylum Aid is an independent, national charity working to secure protection for people seeking refuge in the UK from persecution and human rights abuses abroad. We provide free legal advice and representation to the most vulnerable and excluded asylum seekers, and lobby and campaign for an asylum system based on inviolable human rights principles. The Women’s Project at Asylum Aid strives to obtain protection, respect and security for women seeking asylum in the UK by providing specialist advice and research and campaigning on the rights of women seeking asylum. Asylum Aid was highly commended in the Charity Awards 2010.

Executive summary

1. The Women’s Project at Asylum Aid has been running for more than a decade, and has become a focal point for work on women seeking asylum. Throughout that time it has undertaken legal representation and research, and campaigned for fairer, more dignified treatment of women seeking asylum in the UK. This includes the initiation of the Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum in 2008, a programme for reform now endorsed by well over 300 organisations.

2. As a result, this submission will focus in detail on the assessment of credibility in women’s asylum claims, with broader details about the asylum system as a whole where necessary.

Paragraphs 4-29 focus on the assessment of credibility of women when they seek asylum, the evidence of women facing disproportionate barriers to being believed by officials, and the reasons behind this; paragraphs 30-35 focus on Country of Origin Information, the gaps in this research, and weaknesses in its implementation; paragraphs 36-45 focus on the Detained Fast Track process, and flaws in decision-making during screening; paragraphs 46-49 focus on destitution, the risk that poor decisions will leave women at particular risk, and the impact on those who are left destitute. Paragraphs 50-63 provide concrete recommendations on addressing cultural and operational issues at the UK Border Agency.

3. Asylum Aid would be very interested in providing further, oral evidence to the Committee, particularly on the assessment of credibility when women seek asylum.

The assessment of credibility of women, the mentally ill, victims of torture and specific nationalities within the decision-making process and whether this is reflected in appeal outcomes

‘The culture of disbelief’

4. Asylum Aid believes that there are deep and lasting problems with a ‘culture of disbelief’ at the UK Border Agency (UKBA). As a result of this culture, accounts of persecution by many men, women and families are rejected by officials without clear grounds in relation to international refugee and human rights law, or with little detailed attention towards the case.

5. This is extremely serious, as research has shown how often assessing the credibility of an asylum seeker is prioritised to the exclusion of other elements of the decision-making process. For example, Asylum Aid research in 2011 found that:

The assessment of credibility formed the core of the decision to refuse; other aspects of the decision-making process such as identifying the Convention ground and assessing issues of state protection were marginalised.1

This problem has persisted despite concerns raised by national charities and international NGOs over a sustained period. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR),2 Amnesty International,3 and others have published detailed research into how the credibility of asylum applicants is assessed, and how often accounts of persecution are arbitrarily dismissed. UNHCR has raised concerns about flawed credibility assessments, an application of the wrong standard of proof, a failure to apply objective Country of Origin Information (COI), and the adoption of a mindset where officials appear to be looking to refuse a claim from the outset.4 In the words of Amnesty:

Amnesty International is concerned about the frequency with which Home Office caseworkers make unreasoned and unjustifiable assertions about asylum applicants which cast doubt on the applicant’s individual credibility. [...] [Decisions are] often based on catching applicants out rather than investigating the details of the claim.5

6. This approach is not in the government’s interests. It is the Coalition’s stated aim “to ensure that we are taking the highest quality decisions; getting it right first time”.6 Charities working with the UKBA have long recognised the importance of achieving this, and urged the Agency to focus its resources on doing so.7 However, the abiding culture of disbelief clearly creates substantial barriers to this.

Assessing the credibility of women

7. This section will look at the assessment of credibility in initial asylum claims. Please see paragraphs 36-45 on assessments of credibility in relation to the Detained Fast Track (DFT).

8. Asylum Aid believes that women seeking asylum face a risk, specific to them as women, of being disbelieved without good reason by officials. We believe that many women are failed twice: first as asylum seekers, and then again as women.

9. One third of all people seeking asylum in the UK in their own right are women. This proportion has been consistent for the last decade, and means that between 5,000 and 7,000 women seek asylum here each year.8 Gender is not one of the five grounds for engaging the Refugee Convention, so it is imperative that officials interpret the Convention in a manner sensitive to the persecution women may face. As the UNHCR has stressed:

It is an established principle that the refugee definition as a whole should be interpreted with an awareness of possible gender dimensions in order to determine accurately claims to refugee status.9

10. Women asylum seekers claim protection from a range of human rights abuses in their home countries. A woman may claim asylum because she has been persecuted by the state, such as political activity for which she has been detained. Alternatively, she may face persecution from her family or community, in a country where laws to protect her either don’t exist or go unenforced. Some forms of persecution are particular, though not exclusive, to women, including domestic violence, rape, forced marriage, so-called “honour” crimes, and Female Genital Mutilation.

11. Women are thus more likely than men to have fled non-state persecution. The assessment of credibility has an especially important role in cases of non-state persecution, as people are unlikely to have any documentary evidence, whereas those fleeing state persecution may be able to support their asylum claims with documents such as political membership cards.

12. The UKBA does not collect statistics on the reason for refusing asylum in a given case, but 87% of the women interviewed by Asylum Aid for its research Unsustainable had been disbelieved when they recounted what had happened to them,10 as had 75% of the women interviewed by Women for Refugee Women for their report Refused (2012).11 These reports are based on relatively small samples, but in the absence of UKBA data on this it has fallen to charities to fill the gap.

13. Unsustainable found that women were disproportionately likely to see their asylum refusal overturned on appeal. In its sample, judges reversed the UKBA’s credibility findings and accepted the applicant’s own account in every successful appeal. 42% of refusals issued to women were overturned, compared with the average across both sexes in 2010 of 28%. The UKBA confirmed that its own internal data showed the same pattern, with 35% of appeals allowed for women where the initial decision was made within six months, and 41% where the asylum decision took longer.12

14. This disparity in the overturn rate for decisions which take longer than six months in especially relevant given the Select Committee’s finding that 53% more cases are now waiting six months or more for a decision.

15. As a result of Unsustainable, the UKBA agreed to disaggregate appeal statistics by gender for the first time. UKBA data shows that a higher percentage of refusal decisions issued to women have been overturned on appeal compared to those issued to men, in each of the years between 2007 and 2011 (see appendix 1 for full table).

16. Recent research indicates that between 50-75% of women asylum seekers have been raped, either in their countries of origin, during transit, or once in the UK.13 Despite this, the refusal to believe women who give accounts of gender-based persecution, allied to the disproportionately high overturn rate for women, suggests that something goes badly wrong when there is a gender dimension to any asylum claim.

17. The cost implications for this are substantial. Exact public costings when asylum applications are sent to appeal are difficult to come by, not least because the funding is shared between the Home Office and Ministry of Justice. Therefore estimates should be treated with caution. But one independent estimate from 2008 calculated £2,730.57 per case as the total cost of hearing an appeal and support costs in the meantime.14 This does not include potential tax payments if an asylum seeker had been recognised as a refugee at the right time and entitled to work, nor the costs to the health service of care associated with refusal of asylum.15

18. There are several possible, over-lapping explanations why credibility assessments for women remain disproportionately poor, listed in paragraphs 19-23. Asylum Aid strongly believes that these issues cannot effectively be addressed piecemeal, but must be part of a commitment to place gender-sensitive reforms at the heart of UKBA strategy on asylum.

19. Unsustainable found that asylum interviews for the majority of women in the research sample concentrated on looking for inconsistencies in applicants’ subjective accounts, rather than verifying their accounts against objective information.16

20. The appropriate standard of proof for assessing asylum claims is that of “reasonable degree of likelihood” or “real risk” that past events had occurred, and of future risk that the applicant would be persecuted in their country of origin. This is reflected in guidance for case owners.17 However, Unsustainable found a failure to apply the lower standard of proof.18

21. Unsustainable found a striking failure by some asylum officials to understand the basic nature of the gender-related persecution from which women might flee. This included officials who had never heard of the term ‘female circumcision’, who confused the terms ‘arranged marriage’ and ‘forced marriage’, and whose definitions of domestic violence were arbitrary and confusing. This is despite the fact that an individual who has suffered gender-related persecution such as Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage or domestic violence may engage the Refugee Convention.19

22. Women who claim asylum after being raped or falling victim to sexual violence are often traumatised as a result of this abuse. There is overwhelming independent evidence that trauma can lead to discrepancies and confusion over recall of events surrounding that trauma, or to late disclosure of those events.20 Despite this, we have found that officials often display a limited understanding of how trauma might impact on the way women present their case. Decision-makers will sometimes dismiss the credibility of applicants whose accounts of traumatic events are hesitant or inconsistent, or are provided at a later date, even in the face of specific evidence that this is more likely to indicate trauma than untruth.21

23. The routine disbelief of women seeking asylum mirrors the disbelief which has long confronted victims of rape and sexual violence in the criminal justice system (CJS). A raft of measures has been introduced to make the police and Crown Prosecution Service more sensitive to the needs of women who have reported rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, and so-called “honour” crime. This was intended to support the victim, but also to create an environment in which the right information is made available as early as possible. While poor practice remains in the CJS, the UKBA has taken only very limited steps to learn from the successes and failures of this sort of work elsewhere in government. This is despite pressure from hundreds of UK charities and NGOs as early as 2008, who argued:

If a woman suffers rape, domestic violence or honour crimes in the UK there are gender-sensitive practices that have been developed within the criminal justice system to respond appropriately. If a woman suffers similar violence in her home country and comes to the UK to seek protection, the immigration system should respond to a similar standard, learning the lessons from the criminal justice system.22

In practice, just two meetings have taken place (in 2011) between police and senior UKBA officials to discuss gender rights and training, three-and-a-half years after the first requests by charities.

24. In recent years, the UKBA has introduced some reforms which improve the chances of accurate, sustainable assessments of women’s credibility, albeit in response to sustained lobbying by charities. Women are now automatically offered the choice of a male or female asylum interviewer (within operational constraints), and childcare is available during asylum interviews everywhere in the UK except London. The latter is a crucial step to ensuring that no asylum seeker is forced to choose between disclosing traumatic details in front of her young children or failing to discuss relevant, sensitive information and risking that impacting on her credibility.

The UKBA’s failure to implement or track gender policy

25. It should be noted that asylum policy and training on gender-based asylum claims is strong in many places, often as a result of pressure from asylum charities. There is clear guidance to officials on dealing with women’s asylum claims, including how trauma might account for delayed disclosure of persecution, and how women contradicting social mores might be interpreted in some countries of origin.23 New training on gender-based persecution was rolled-out for all UKBA decision-makers in 2012, building on the evidence in Unsustainable. The poor quality of credibility assessments persists because these policies and training are ignored or overlooked by the UKBA, only for judges to apply the appropriate standards in accepting many of the same accounts of persecution further down the line.

26. The UKBA acknowledges that its own auditing process is inadequate for monitoring and addressing how gender-based asylum cases are handled. The UKBA Quality and Development Audit team states in its 2011 thematic review of gender and asylum:

It is apparent from conducting this audit that some areas of the decision making process are not always easily identified as areas of concern because of the current auditing criteria and marking standards used in the audit process.24

An audit system which accurately tracks and measures the quality of decisions for women seeking asylum is urgently needed.

A lack of joined-up work on violence against women

27. The government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy was launched in November 2010, with a promise to provide a “cohesive and comprehensive” response to violence against women, whether taking place “in modern Britain or anywhere else in the world”.25 However, the initial strategy contained just one, heavily-qualified commitment to helping women seeking asylum, who were missed out despite having fled violence in one country and who research shows are at increased risk of violence once in the UK.26 These commitments were expanded in March 2013 only after concerted pressure from NGOs and charities, and now include specific commitments on better training of asylum decision-makers, greater transparency, and enhanced COI.27 These could make a material difference to whether or not women are believed when they seek asylum, and the implementation of these promised actions is essential.

28. The government is promoting and resourcing important work to protect women overseas from domestic and sexual violence and sexual violence in conflict,28 and launching major UK initiatives to combat forced marriage and FGM. The UKBA has shown little commitment, however, to sharing in the experiences of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development in order to reach better, more sustainable decisions for women seeking asylum on the same grounds.

29. Asylum Aid is also concerned that the Coalition’s hesitancy over opting-in to some key European instruments compromises its commitment to improving the treatment of women seeking asylum.

Firstly, the UK has decided not to opt-in to the recast EU Qualification, Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives developed as part of the EU harmonisation process,29 and will therefore continue to be bound by previous Directives which have far more limited reference to gender.

Secondly, the government delayed signing the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, which was finalised in Istanbul in May 2011.30 The convention includes strong provisions on women asylum seekers, and requires signatories to recognise gender-based violence as a form of persecution within the Refugee Convention; provide a gender-sensitive interpretation of the Refugee Convention grounds; develop gender-sensitive reception procedures and support services for asylum seekers; and have gender guidelines and gender-sensitive asylum procedures (articles 60.1-3). The government signed the Convention in June 2012,31 but only after the UK had unsuccessfully put forward new amendments, one of which would have made it possible for Member States to make reservations to article 60.3:

Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to develop gender-sensitive reception procedures and support services for asylum-seekers as well as gender guidelines and gender-sensitive asylum procedures, including refugee status determination and application for international protection.

The use of Country of Origin Information and Operational Guidance Notes in determining the outcome of asylum applications

30. The courts have long stated that the assessment of an asylum seeker’s credibility can only be made in the context of COI. As one judgment stated in 1998:

It is our view that credibility findings can only really be made on the basis of a complete understanding of the entire picture. It is our view that one cannot assess a claim without placing that claim into the context of the background of the country of origin. In other words, the probative value of the evidence must be evaluated in light of what is known about the conditions in the claimant’s country of origin.32

31. The use of COI is evidently crucial to any asylum claim. Officials are aided by COI reports, provided by country-specific researchers. Yet evidence shows that COI is used selectively and partially, and that asylum officials will sometimes make assumptions where there are gaps in the COI available. The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA has raised his concern that such assumptions might undermine the credibility of asylum claimants where information is missing from COI reports, and stressed that this would be a particular problem for those claiming asylum on gender-based grounds.33

32. It was found in 2007, for example, that COI reports often provide evidence on human rights conditions in a specific country from a male perspective only, and that there is only a short section addressing women’s issues.34 More recent research identified the number of gaps in addressing gender issues which still existed in COI reports, including information necessary to assess the risk on return to the country of origin, the possibility of internal relocation, and the health of asylum seekers.35

33. Asylum Aid’s 2011 research report Unsustainable found specific examples of COI being used selectively in the majority of the cases it sampled, so that:

sections [from COI] that undermined the applicant’s cases were quoted and highlighted, while sections (often from the same reports) that corroborated the applicant’s case were ignored.

This included one case in which the UKBA reproduced independent COI which stated that women in Iraq could gain effective help from a local police station, but omitted the preceding sentence which stated that “women have been sexually assaulted by the police when reporting to a police station”.36

34. Unsustainable also identified how extremely weak COI is used to undermine a client’s credibility or claim. In one case, a woman seeking asylum from Uganda on the grounds of her sexuality was told that her account of the danger of persecution at home “is inconsistent with available country of origin information” before citing two American gossip websites, gawker.com and queerty.com. Other, more authoritative sources of information about the persecution of lesbians in the COI report for Uganda, including a report by the US State Department, were omitted.37

35. Unsustainable also examined five cases of women from Somalia, all of whom described to the UKBA gender-related persecution. None of the refusal letters contained any examination of the status of women in Somalia, nor the way in which women are treated.38

The effectiveness of the UK Border Agency screening process, including the method of determining eligibility for the ‘Detained Fast Track’ procedure

36. Inappropriate screening practices affect the way women’s credibility is assessed in a number of ways.

37. The UKBA undertook a review of screening during 2011 which included gender issues. The appointment of a ‘Gender Champion’ and ‘Trafficking Champion’ in 2011 is a welcome step towards strategic thinking on how women are treated during screening, but very serious problems persist.

38. Asylum applicants are expected to disclose only basic information about where they are from and why they need protection during their screening interview. Yet Asylum Aid’s legal team continues to see—and has seen for many years—refusal decisions which question an applicant’s credibility because an issue raised during the substantial asylum interview was not mentioned during screening. Conversely, minor discrepancies between information given at screening and at the substantive interview are also then used to question the credibility of the applicant.

39. The UKBA has agreed to try and provide women interviewing officers for female asylum seekers at screening, but this is not guaranteed. This leaves a major barrier to women giving general, clear information about why they are claiming asylum.

40. Anyone seeking asylum must do so in person at the Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) in Croydon. Charities and advocates have reported many problems with this process, including women with children forced to travel very long distances across the UK without any financial support in order to arrive at the ASU early enough to be screened on the same day.39 This is evidently unsuited to taking appropriate, reliable information from exhausted asylum seekers, especially when the detention or otherwise of that person is at stake.

41. The formal criteria for placing someone in the DFT require evidence that “a quick decision is possible” on their asylum claim, provided that that person does not fall into the exclusion criteria:

  • Children
  • Women who are 24 or more weeks pregnant;
  • Family cases
  • Those with a disability which cannot be adequately managed
  • Those with a physical or mental medical condition which cannot be adequately treated
  • Those who clearly lack mental capacity or coherence
  • Those who are victims of trafficking
  • Those with independent evidence of torture40

42. However, the information provided at screening is extremely limited, and there is no guidance to identify how or why an asylum claim might be decided quickly. Asylum Aid strongly refutes the UKBA’s unevidenced statement that this assumption can be applied to the ‘majority’ of claims.41

43. In practice, Human Rights Watch and others have observed that the basis for routing into DFT has included doubts about the credibility of an account provided by the applicant during a screening interview.42

44. This threatens to undermine the roll-out of new asylum procedures under the Asylum Operating Model (AOM) from April 2013, including for handling complex claims. If poor decisions mean that complex cases are routed into DFT, these will never be considered through the AOM. Asylum Aid knows, from first-hand experience of officials’ work at the Fast-Track Intake Unit and the testimony of asylum seekers, that women have been allocated to DFT even where they have disclosed complex gender-based persecution at screening.

45. The accelerated decision-making process in DFT, and restricted access to legal representation,43 means that it can then be very difficult to demonstrate credibility after being detained. This can be especially true for victims of gender-based persecution, whose cases can be highly complex and who may, through trauma, fear or embarrassment, come forward with sensitive, relevant information late in their claim or not at all. Furthermore, the UN Refugee Agency has previously noted of the DFT that “[s]ome [UKBA] Case Owners demonstrate a limited understanding of refugee law concepts and gender specific issues are often not correctly assessed in decisions”.44 There is a real risk that women are placed in DFT as a result of poor and inappropriate credibility assessments during screening, and are then at risk of being removed from the UK after asylum decisions which are overly swift and ill-informed on gender issues.

The prevalence of destitution amongst asylum applicants and refused asylum seekers

46. There is a terrible irony that women who have often fled from persecution and violence overseas are left at risk of further violence here as a result of shortcomings in the UK asylum system. This exposes a contradiction at the heart of government promises to protect women who suffer from violence, as some women are exposed to greater risk precisely as a result of UK asylum policy.

47. Failings in the way the UKBA assesses the credibility of women (see paragraphs 19-23) leaves women at particular risk of receiving poor asylum decisions, and subsequently being left destitute.

48. If a woman does not have children, and does not face extraordinary circumstances (such as being unable to leave the UK because of a physical impediment), then accommodation and support will be withdrawn by the UKBA if a woman’s asylum claim and appeal have been refused.45 But decisions to remove support are also deeply flawed. Research by the Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) in 2011 showed that:

Over 80% of the London Project’s clients between July 2008 and March 2010, who were refused support by the UKBA on the grounds that they were not destitute, won their appeals after being represented by ASAP’s duty scheme. This poor decision making resulted in unnecessary appeals, which meant unnecessary cost to the public purse and unnecessary hardship and stress to already vulnerable adults and children.46

ASAP’s research does not disaggregate these figures by gender, but half of their sample are women.

49. In the event that support is withdrawn, a woman can be left destitute, and reliant on friends for housing and money. There are gender-related reasons why the situation might become still worse for women asylum seekers. Pregnancy or the birth of a child is the most common reason for women to move out of accommodation provided by family or friends, and be left street homeless. Women may be forced out of insecure accommodation because of domestic violence and sexual exploitation. Recent research by Oxfam has shown that some women are forced to participate in ‘transactional sex’ in order either to prevent losing somewhere to sleep or finding a new roof over their heads.47

Recommendations

The UK Border Agency needs an overhaul of its culture, such that its approach to all asylum seekers is founded on dignity and respect. The following recommendations are divided in two parts: those which will help ensure this over-arching culture change, and the operational changes on the ground which will improve the asylum system straight away.

Culture change

The Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency should:

50. Guarantee women seeking asylum access to a fair and dignified system which results in asylum decisions made right first time.

51. Focus on developing a culture at the UKBA focused on protection, equalities, and human rights. As part of this, the Chief Executive should demonstrate leadership and vision to create a gender-sensitive culture within the UKBA as a whole, in line with the Equality Act 2010.

52. Create an approach to gender-based persecution at the UKBA consistent with the government initiatives in the UK on forced marriage, FGM, and so-called “honour” crime, as well as government initiatives to protect women from violence overseas.

53. Implement the commitments to asylum rights in paragraphs 46-48 of the government’s revised Violence Against Women and Girl Action Plan (March 2013) in the next six to twelve months.

54. Incorporate recognition of gender as a strategic objective in all planning processes in respect of asylum seekers and refugees.

Operational changes

The UK Border Agency should:

55. Ensure gender is mainstreamed by undertaking gender impact assessments of all policies, including the new Asylum Operating Model.

56. Automatically provide screening at their local UKBA office for women with children/babies or who are pregnant, rather than at Croydon.

57. Provide childcare at the Asylum Screening Unit.

58. Whilst the Detained Fast Track continues to exist, exclude:

(a) cases where there is evidence or an assertion or indicator of gender-based violence or of sexual orientation or gender identity (whether at screening or whilst in the DFT); and

(b) women at any stage of pregnancy.

59. Guarantee that women asylum seekers are provided with female case owners and interpreters for their screening and substantive interviews.

60. Training, audit and performance management systems should be used to ensure that case owners:

(a) apply the correct standard of proof and give applicants the benefit of the doubt where appropriate;

(b) recognise that omissions and inconsistencies in accounts of gender-based persecution and torture can result from trauma, and should not automatically be taken as evidence of untruth;

(c) assess credibility based on the core facts of the claim taking all facts into account including any medical evidence or country of origin information available in the round;

(d) interpret the Refugee Convention in a gender-sensitive way; and

(e) seek out gender issues in country of origin information and apply this appropriately.

61. Transfer the understanding of models of rape trauma and domestic violence used by the criminal justice system to the UKBA.

62. Undertake a gender audit on the quality of decision-making in women’s cases.

63. Include in Country of Origin Information and Operational Guidance Notes relevant information relating to gender persecution, discrimination, cultural and economic issues that impact disproportionally upon women and regularly review that information/guidance to ensure that it is up to date.

Appendix 1

The rate of successful appeals by gender for each of the last five years:48

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Initial decisions overturned for men at appeal
(%)

20.2

20.6

24.5

24.8

24.8

Initial decision overturned for women at appeal
(%)

26.9

27.3

36.9

32.3

29.6

01.gif

Asylum Aid

March 2013


1 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable: the quality of initial decision-making in women’s asylum claims (2011), p. 51.

2 UN Refugee Agency, Quality Initiative: Fifth report to the Minister (2008).

3 Amnesty International UK, Get it right: How Home Office decision making fails refugees (2004).

4 UN Refugee Agency, Quality Initiative: Third report to the Minister (2006), p.5.

5 Amnesty, Get it right, p. 19.

6 Minister’s speech to the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum (May 2011).

7 Jane Aspen, Independent evaluation of the Solihull Pilot (2008), p. 10; Asylum Aid, Right First Time: how UK Border Agency officials and legal representatives can work together to improve the asylum system (2013).

8 Asylum Aid, “I feel like as a woman I’m not welcome”: A gender analysis of UK asylum law, policy and practice (2012), pp. 19-20.

9 UN Refugee Agency, Gender-related persecution within the context of Article 1A (2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees (2002), p. 2.

10 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 5.

11 Women for Refugee Women, Refused: the experiences of women denied asylum in the UK (2012), p. 9.

12 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 13.

13 Scottish Refugee Council & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Asylum seeking women, violence and health (2009); Refugee Council, The vulnerable women’s project: refugee and asylum seeking women affected by rape or sexual violence—literature review (2009); Women for Refugee Women, Refused.

14 Aspen, Independent evaluation of the Solihull Pilot, p. 66. Updated calculations are likely to be available when the Early Legal Advice Project pilot reports later this year.

15 On impact of asylum refusal on women’s health, see Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, pp. 43-44; and Women for Refugee Women, Refused, p. 5.

16 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 52.

17 Asylum Instruction on Considering the Protection (Asylum) Claim and Assessing Credibility, p. 21.

18 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, pp. 51-55.

19 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 6.

20 See, for example, Jane Herlihy and Stuart W. Turner, ‘The Psychology of seeking protection’ (2009); Diana Bögner, Jane Herlihy and Chris R. Brewin, ‘Impact of sexual violence on disclosure during Home Office interviews’ (2007).

21 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, pp. 55-56.

22 Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum (2008), p. 3. The values and recommendations outlined in the Charter is endorsed by well over 300 organisations, including Liberty, Oxfam, and the British Red Cross.

23 UKBA, Gender issues in the asylum claim (2010).

24 UKBA, Quality and efficiency report: thematic review of gender issues in asylum claims (June 2011), p. 2.

25 Home Office, Call to end violence against women and girls (2011), pp. 1,2.

26 See Heaven Crawley, Joanne Hemmings and Neil Price, Coping with destitution: survival and livelihood strategies of refused asylum seekers living in the UK (2011), pp. 41, 42, 43.

27 Home Office, Call to end violence against women and girls: action plan (2013), paragraphs 46-48.

28 Foreign Secretary’s speech to mark International Women’s Day (2013).

29 Written Ministerial Statement on European Union opt-in decision (October 2011).

30 Home Office, Ending violence against women and girls: action plan progress review (2011), p. 27.

31 Foreign Office press release (2012).

32 Horvath v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Appeal No: 17338, AIT/IAA, 28 September 1998 , paragraph 21.

33 Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA, The use of country of origin information in deciding asylum applications: a thematic inspection (2010-2011), paragraph 3.

34 Asylum Aid, Country of origin information and women: researching gender and persecution in the context of asylum and human rights (2007), p. 11.

35 Heaven Crawley, Thematic review on the coverage of women in country of origin information reports, prepared for the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (2011), PP. 136, 142.

36 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, pp. 61-62.

37 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 60.

38 Asylum Aid, Unsustainable, p. 61.

39 A first-hand account is provided in Lauren Butler, ‘Lodging a claim for asylum under the new procedures: a first-hand account’ in Women’s Asylum News (95: September 2010), pp. 1-4. This account describes a journey from Rochdale to London, starting at 4.15am and arriving in Croydon “four hours and three transfers later”.

40 UKBA, Detained fast track processes, section 2.3.

41 UKBA, Detained fast track processes, section 2.2.

42 Human Rights Watch, Fast-tracked unfairness: Detention and denial of women asylum seekers in the UK (2010), p. 38

43 85% of those in DFT sampled by Detention Action in 2011 only met their legal representative on the day of their substantive interview, and the overwhelming majority were left highly unclear about their rights. See Detention Action, Fast-track to despair: The unnecessary detention of asylum-seekers (2011), p. 26.

44 UN Refugee Agency, Quality initiative project: Fifth report to the Minister, p. vii.

45 Asylum Support Appeals Project, No credibility: UKBA decision-making and Section 4 support (2011), p. 5.

46 Asylum Support Appeals Project, No credibility, p. 11.

47 See Crawley et al, Coping with destitution, pp. 48-49.

48 Asylum Support Appeals Project, No credibility, p. 11.

Prepared 11th October 2013