I’ve been spurred back into blogging by a report I just saw from The Independent. It’s about what the Home Office and lawyers call ‘re-documentation’.
Where an asylum claim fails, the Home Office are quick to start preparing asylum seekers for express delivery whence they came. Where the asylum seeker has no identity documents or passport, which is the vast majority of cases, it will be necessary to obtain some travel documents for them. This ensures that on arrival they will be admitted to the country concerned rather than immediately ‘bounced’ back to the UK on the next flight.
In order to obtain travel documents for an undocumented asylum seeker, the Home Office needs the co-operation of the country to which the person will be returned. For example, if the person is from Sudan (or the Home Office beleives they are or they claim to be) then the Home Office will contact the Sudanese embassy and ask an official to come and interview the asylum seeker to establish nationality and accept that the person is indeed Sudanese. This usually involves asking a few questions about their background, listening to the way they speak and so on.
Some countries really couldn’t care less whether or not the Home Office wants to remove some asylum seeker, and they refuse to put resources into these types of interview. This makes citizens of these countries almost impossible to remove. China and India both spring to mind as examples.
Where a person’s asylum claim has failed, anyone who accepts the existence of immigration controls (which is not quite everyone, and something I myself feel ambivalent about) would have to accept, logically, that these interviews are necessary. The problem is, though, that the interviews begin after asylum claims have failed – but before appeals are determined. Given that around 20% of appeals are successful and given the inevitable mistakes that take place in individual decisions, some might think that this policy of exposing possible refugees to the authorities of their home, persecuting countries is not terribly sensible. The report in The Indie certainly suggests so, and there have periodically been similar stories in the past, and not just on Sudan.
Last word on this: it is now a criminal offence under section 35 of the appallingly named Immigration and Asylum (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004 not to co-operate with your own re-documentation. As far as I know there have been no prosecutions yet. But what good could prison time possibly do as a deterrent to someone who is desperate to avoid removal?