Judicial reviews of decisions concerning asylum should be a last resort, not the norm
Change is crucial
Khadija’s initial claim for asylum was refused primarily on the basis of the UK Border Agency’s refusal to accept either that she was Somali or from a minority clan. Accordingly, we worked to provide evidence to the contrary. The 70-year-old was able to make contact with two relatives in the UK, both of whom had been granted refugee status on the basis of their clan affiliations. Both provided detailed statements to explain how they were related, where Khadija had lived in relation to their homes, and under what circumstances they had lost contact in Somalia’s civil war.
We also commissioned a Somali scholar to write a report, analysing Khadija’s use of language and dialect in order to demonstrate her likely geographic and ethnic background. The report suggested that she was a member of a distinct minority clan, and therefore at risk of harm on return to Somalia - the country to which the UKBA argues she should return, while also professing to disbelieve that she is even from there.
In other words, the new representations had substance and merit to them and objectively were ‘significantly different’ from those already considered. Yet five days after submission, they were dismissed, with no right to appeal, as adding ‘no weight’ to the previously refused material.
We have been able to help Khadija to secure basic accommodation and subsistence support by initiating a judicial review. But, if 96 per cent of these new claims - known as further submissions - are rejected, as Inside Housing revealed last month, there is clearly a significant problem.
Judicial reviews of decisions made by public bodies should be carried out in exceptional circumstances; they should not and cannot be the default mechanism by which 96 per cent of claims are properly scrutinised.
Dave Stamp, project manager at Asylum Support & Immigration Resource Team