Casework

Along­side the human­it­ari­an work of our drop-in a core com­pon­ent of the work of PAFRAS is to help people move out of des­ti­tu­tion through sup­port, advice and advocacy. We do not provide leg­al advice but do help ser­vice users find leg­al rep­res­ent­a­tion amongst oth­er things.

PAFRAS employes two part-time case work­ers who see around 30 cli­ents each week at the Thursday drop-in.

Explaining the Asylum System

The asylum pro­cess in the UK is long and com­plic­ated, fre­quently bewil­der­ing those who come into con­tact with it. While all asylum applic­ants are giv­en ori­ent­a­tion shortly after claim­ing asylum exper­i­ence shows that it is very dif­fi­cult for the vast major­ity of people to prop­erly grasp import­ant aspects of the sys­tem all in one go. A core func­tion of the work of our case­work­ers is to help ser­vice users to under­stand the sys­tem as fully as pos­sible so that they are able to make informed choices.

Finding Legal Representation

Stud­ies show that, once they have been refused, des­ti­tute asylum seekers from across York­shire and Hum­ber tend to grav­it­ate towards Leeds so as to access the deep­er net­works of sup­port avail­able here. For most refused asylum seekers refus­al does not mark the end of their attempts to find sanc­tu­ary in this coun­try but rather the begin­ning of a long and dif­fi­cult pro­cess of gath­er­ing togeth­er what addi­tion­al evid­ence they can to sup­port fur­ther rep­res­ent­a­tions for a fresh claim of asylum.

Many asylum seekers lose their leg­al help pri­or to their appeal after hav­ing had their cases judged to have insuf­fi­cient ‘mer­it’ — a leg­al term relat­ing to the estim­ated chance of suc­cess — to war­rant leg­al aid.

The bit­ter irony for many is that, if pre­vi­ously the asylum sys­tem was extraordin­ar­ily slow (and it remains so for many tens of thou­sands with so-called ‘Leg­acy’ cases) under the New Asylum Mod­el (NAM) intro­duced in March 2007, many decisions are reached too quickly, without prop­er con­sid­er­a­tion by Home Office case work­ers.

This goes bey­ond the 20–25% of all appeals that, accord­ing to the Nation­al Audit Office, are upheld by the Asylum & Immig­ra­tion Tribunal (some 70% of all refus­als are appealed). Few amongst those flee­ing for their lives have the oppor­tun­ity (or the pres­ence of mind) to gath­er togeth­er suf­fi­cient evid­ence to prove their per­se­cu­tion to the UKBA.

The faster NAM pro­cess means that many genu­ine refugees are found to be ‘bogus’ by a bur­eau­cracy that has a cul­ture of dis­trust towards the people whose lives depend on it. Today asylum seekers can find them­selves dis­persed, refused, evicted and made home­less with­in a rel­at­ively short peri­od of time (any­thing from a few months to a year), hav­ing had no time to build up a sup­port struc­ture, learn Eng­lish or famil­i­ar­ise them­selves with UK life.

Large num­bers of our ser­vice users come to PAFRAS for help find­ing a soli­cit­or to help them present a fresh claim for asylum to the Home Office. Des­pite the present cli­mate of cut­backs, PAFRAS is still able to assist some des­ti­tute cli­ents in find­ing leg­al rep­res­ent­a­tion; thereby enabling them to sub­mit fresh claims and secure Sec­tion 4 Sup­port. Through the receipt of small cash dona­tions, we have also been able to assist cli­ents with the travel costs to meet leg­al rep­res­ent­at­ives where they are based out­side of Leeds.

Submitting Further Representations

In Octo­ber 2009 the gov­ern­ment changed the rules for sub­mit­ting new evid­ence to sup­port fresh asylum claims. The new rules have caused huge prob­lems for des­ti­tute asylum seekers try­ing to present their evid­ence and strained the resources of sup­port organ­isa­tions.

Now any­one whose ori­gin­al claim for asylum was made after 4 March 2007 is required to sub­mit fresh evid­ence in per­son at his or her report­ing centre. Those who claimed before then are worst affected. They must now tele­phone the Fur­ther Sub­mis­sions Unit (FSU) in Liv­er­pool, arrange an appoint­ment and then attend in per­son to sub­mit their evid­ence. Many of PAFRAS’s cli­ents fall into this cat­egory and a big part of the work done by our case work­ers is con­tact­ing the woe­fully under resourced Fur­ther Sub­mis­sions Unit in Liv­er­pool, arran­ging appoint­ments for our ser­vice users and then pur­chas­ing tick­ets to enable them to attend. You can read more about the changes to the rules regard­ing fur­ther sub­mis­sions in our May-June 2010 edi­tion of our news­let­ter.

Working with Expectant Mothers

A rel­at­ively high pro­por­tion of PAFRAS’s cli­ents are young and expect­ing moth­ers. While a fam­ily that has chil­dren below the age of eight­een before los­ing its asylum applic­a­tion will con­tin­ue to receive sup­port from the UKBA until their remov­al from the UK, women who give birth after their claim has already been refused face con­tin­ued des­ti­tu­tion.

Brief res­pite from this is avail­able as women who are sev­en months preg­nant are allowed to apply for Sec­tion 4 Sup­port and sup­port will con­tin­ue to receive this sup­port for up to eight weeks after giv­ing birth. An import­ant part of the work­load of our case work­ers is help­ing des­ti­tute women who are expect­ing chil­dren to access all of the (albeit lim­ited) stat­utory sup­port avail­able to them. This involves liais­ing with social ser­vices, and the NHS and attend­ing com­mon assess­ment frame­work meet­ings in a sup­port­ing capa­city where reques­ted to by the ser­vice user.

References

Nation­al Audit Office (2009) Man­age­ment of Asylum Applic­a­tions by the UK Bor­der Agency: Report by the Comp­troller and Aud­it­or Gen­er­al, Lon­don: House of Com­mons