Guidance for OISC advisors in advising their clients on credibility in asylum applications
So what is credibility?
Essentially, it’s the Home Office way of working out whether an applicant is telling the truth or not.
The following actions will be deemed damaging of an asylum applicant’s credibility:
- Failing to claim as soon as they arrive in the UK, or as soon as the risk to them in their home country is known.
- Destruction of an asylum applicant’s passport or travel documents, presenting fraudulent documents,
- Failure to provide a passport or failure to provide an explanation or answer to a question,
- Failure to claim asylum in the first safe country arrived at and
- Failure to claim asylum before being arrested.
In some instances, in respect of the above considerations, it may be possible to provide a reasonable explanation to the Home Office for the failure. In other instances, for example production of a fraudulent passport, the action will automatically damage credibility of the applicant.
How does the Home Office make a decision?
The Home Office will also use a set of criteria to determine credibility of the applicant’s case. A strong application will have
- Detail and specificity
- Internal consistency
- Internal consistency examines any contradictions in the applicant’s case.
- An example of internal inconsistency would be if an applicant he/she was arrested three times but at another juncture stated they were arrested four times.
- External consistency
- External consistency will cross examine the information provided by an applicant with country information they have received.
- For example, if the applicant stated they were arrested and the officers that arrested the applicant wore black uniforms with green trim, the Home Office may consider country evidence to see if this is the case. If the officers in that country did wear black uniforms with green trim, then the claim would be externally consistent.
- The Home Office will also consider the likelihood of the applicant’s case.
- As an example, the applicant could say that they escaped from prison by bribing a guard. The Home Office might consider that guards are poorly paid in the applicant’s country of nationality, there is evidence that prison guards take bribes and therefore the applicant’s version of events is plausible.
- Conversely, the applicant may assert that they paid a bribe of £2 to a guard in a country where guards are well-paid and where the punishment to guards accepting bribes is punishable by death.
Whilst this is clearly a greatly exaggerated factual matrix, you will get the gist; that is that this would not be a plausible version of events as a guard is highly unlikely to take a bribe when he does not need the money and the punishment is so severe.
Home Office Interview
In order to address credibility of the applicant’s claim it is imperative that a witness statement is prepared for the applicant prior to the Home Office interview. This does not need to be submitted to the Home Office but gives the applicant an opportunity to lay out their case in detail prior to the Home Office interview.
This serves a number of purposes:
- The applicant is asked questions that can be traumatic for the first time by their representative in what should be a more comfortable environment.
- The applicant’s memory will be jogged when recounting the event and errors in recall can be realised by the applicant.
In summary, credibility is so important to asylum applicants, particularly where documentary evidence may not be available due to the journey the applicant took to the UK and the circumstances of them leaving their home country. It is therefore crucial as the representative that this is a focus in case preparation.
Asylum is a difficult and complex process which often requires expert guidance.
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