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Sunday, 18 January 2015

New Rule For UK Asylum Seekers!

In a rule change to be enforced by the Home Office from January 26, the foreign nationals will no longer be permitted to submit evidence that could help their case at local immigration centres.

Immigration and asylum policy is reserved to Westminster, and current employment restrictions mean the majority of asylum seekers are not allowed to work.

The new system has been criticised by the Scottish Government, immigration lawyers and a leading charity that supports refugees who arrive in the UK after fleeing persecution.

Communities Secretary Alex Neil intends to raise his concerns with Home Secretary Theresa May.

The rule change will apply to asylum seekers who have had their initial applications rejected by the Home Office. Many rejected asylum seekers win appeals, but there are fears the new arrangements will deter vulnerable people from fighting to remain in Scotland.

In an official letter to members of the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum from UK Visas and Immigration chief executive Mike Wells, seen by the Sunday Herald, he sets out the policy shift. "From January 26, 2015, we will require all failed asylum seekers wishing to submit further submissions to make an appointment to do so, in person, in Liverpool," said Wells, who includes his CBE award after his signature in the letter dated January 13.

He adds: "The appointments will be requested by telephone. We will aim to make appointments within 10 working days of the initial telephone contact."

Scottish immigration lawyers have insisted most asylum seekers will be unable to scrape together enough cash to pay for expensive travel to and from Liverpool in such a short period of time.

One Glasgow-based solicitor, who asked not to be named, said: "Many people who are required to provide further submissions have received word at short notice that they are to have their benefits stopped completely and are to be made homeless. More often than not they have no permission to work, have no family ties to fall back on.

"The requirement to travel to Liverpool places a huge obstacle in their way to having their claim considered and being able to access support while they await a decision."

Another solicitor, who oversees a team of immigration lawyers in Glasgow and also wished to remain anonymous, called on the Government to reverse the decision.

He said: "The clear aim is to discourage applications. These vulnerable people should be able to hand their submissions in at their local centre and then they can be forwarded to Liverpool."

The Scottish Refugee Council has described the rule change by the UK Visas and Immigration department as "obstructive".

The charity's head of policy Gary Christie said: "People make fresh claims for protection for two main reasons. Firstly, initial decision-making by the Home Office is often flawed, as we've seen by the high rates of initial decisions overturned on appeal.

"Secondly, and crucially, claims for asylum are inherently complex. It is often difficult for people to gather the evidence the Home Office requires to prove that they will be subject to torture, persecution and human rights abuses if they return to their home countries."

Neil said: "I am writing to the Home Secretary to express my strong view that this retrograde step should not be implemented for asylum seekers in Scotland."

A Home Office spokesman said: "These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused. They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who genuinely need it."