The Home Office has introduced the notion of “safeguarding leads”, supervised by a senior official as head of the “safeguarding hub”. There is limited information on the work of these hubs, however, as the safeguarding policy is an internal document, although limited detail is available through the funding document. More information about the safeguarding hubs and the Home Office’s approach to vulnerable adults can be found in the 2019 inspection report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.
Guidance on gender issues in the asylum claim sets out good practice in recognising gender-specific forms of persecution and the difficulties that women may face in accessing protection. The guidance recognises that discrimination may amount to persecution in countries where serious legal, cultural or social restrictions are placed upon women, and the need to be rigorous in understanding country of origin information when deciding women’s claims.
Guidance on the substantive interview was revised in 2019 and addresses issues of disclosure, gender based violence as well as experiences of torture.
There are limited concessions to the requirement to make an asylum claim in person. Discretion is afforded to UKVI staff to allow someone to register a claim more locally if they are unable to travel to the Asylum Intake Unit due to severe health or disability issues or, with the agreement of an NGO in Scotland.
People with mental illness severe enough to affect their mental capacity may have a publicly funded representative at their asylum interview.
Exemption from detention and special procedures
There are no other procedural guarantees in law for vulnerable adult applicants relating to decision-making or application process, except that they should not, according to policy, be detained. Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules provides that where there is evidence that a detainee has been tortured, or for any other reason their health would be injuriously affected by detention, a report should be made to the caseworker for release to be considered. Rule 35 guidance was updated in 2019.
However, the detention of people with mental illness remains a major source of concern and is covered further in the section on Detention of Vulnerable Applicants. A case in 2019 confirmed that the Home Office need not introduce a process equivalent to Rule 35 for immigration detainees held in prisons.
There are no other published criteria which would prevent someone who had suffered torture or other extreme violence from being routed into the NSA procedure. The policies about vulnerable applicants, although they are unevenly applied, concern suitability for detention, not for a non-suspensive appeal.
Guidance to officers making a decision after the screening interview also advises that where a person through illness has a need for care and attention over and above destitution, they should be referred to a Local Authority for a needs assessment. In practice, local authority support is difficult to obtain, and policies vary in different local authority areas.
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, An inspection of the Home Office’s approach to the identification and safeguarding of vulnerable adults, January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2NN8fOC.
Home Office, Asylum Policy Instruction: Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim: process, 2018, Available at https://bit.ly/2NPSqYr
Home Office, Policy and process guidance: asylum interviews, June 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2G9MQft.
Home Office, Detention services order 09/2016 Detention centre rule 35 and Shortterm Holding Facility rule 32, March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2RLvoDw.
MA (Pakistan) and AO (Nigeria), EWHC 3567 (Admin), Case No: CO/2701/2018 & CO/4233/2018, 20 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/39k30PM.