The asylum processes in developed, industrialised western countries aren’t easy to understand. They are generally complicated, involve significant amounts of administrative hurdles and are often adversarial. Legal remedies against negative decisions, such as appeals, are extremely difficult to use in practice. The likelihood of getting protection from forcible return depends on the early and qualified assistance which means in many asylum states, it will be necessary to take legal advice sooner or later.
This makes it important to try to find as much information as you can on the asylum procedure in your country of asylum, and be prepared to put your best case forward.
How to approach the asylum application process
During the whole process, you should give a true, complete, detailed and consistent picture of the reasons for your application, both in writing and orally.
Credibility criteria vary slightly from one asylum country to the other. But generally speaking, it is better prepare both a written and oral statement, which is:
- True (lies are mostly revealed and hinder any form of protection)
- Complete (mentioning all elements of your personal history which are relevant for your flight)
- Detailed (describing the concrete circumstances of all the elements, even if they might seem shameful)
- Consistent (without contradictions to former statements or evident facts)
- Focused (clearly setting out the reasons for your asylum application)
Preparing for your asylum interview
You will inevitably be interviewed as part of your asylum claim, potentially multiple times.
While the specific format and procedure differ by country, some recommendations for the asylum interview in European countries include:
- Whenever possible, prepare a written statement on the reasons for your flight in advance. This takes time to be done well. Use the questionnaire here to check whether you really mentioned all relevant points. Keep a copy or two of your written presentation when you hand it over to the authorities.
- It is better to present your asylum case both orally and in writing in a chronological way, so one event after the other, in order to avoid misunderstandings. But you should also refer back to facts you mentioned earlier if there is a thematic link.
- Also in interviews, indicate precisely the time and the place when and where something happened. Be aware of the fact that the asylum officer does not know your story as you do.
- Insist on presenting all facts legitimating your asylum application even if the officer asks you only about the way you took to get to Europe. Asylum officers sometimes neglect their task to find out the facts of your persecution.
- Indicate right from the beginning that you do not understand the asylum officer or the translator/interpreter if this is the case.
- Ask for an asylum officer and translator/interpreter of your sex/gender if you do not dare to mention delicate/intimate facts otherwise. Officers are mostly trained to accept these requests.
- If you are still shocked by what happened to you, ask for psychological assistance. Let the officer know that you cannot (yet) present all delicate / intimate details of what happened to you or your loved ones.
- Do not sign interview minutes or other documents that you do not fully understand or that are not complete, not absolutely correct or that are not at least orally retranslated into a language you fully understand. In lawful states nobody is obliged to sign documents. No signature is a “must.”
- Do not sign the withdrawal of your application unless you have thoroughly reflected this step for several days at least, preferably after legal advice by a lawyer or a refugee-assisting organisation. Do not believe any arguments of urgency with respect to the withdrawal.
Documents supporting your asylum claim
As an asylum seeker, it is in your best interests to present your individual case to officials in a complete, detailed and consistent way. Documents that back up your claim are extremely helpful in proving your case.
Documents you should try to bring with you include the following.
Documents confirming your identity and citizenship
Passports, licenses, work papers, birth certificates, etc. Identity is an issue in every asylum case, and the more documents you have to prove your identity, the better.
Documents confirming what happened to you
Arrest records, medical records, newspaper clippings, political or religious identity cards, pictures of injuries, and the like are all very valuable.
Documents describing the conditions you are fleeing
While many countries have general information about country conditions, do not think that all officers or judges deciding on asylum claims are well informed about the situation in your country of origin. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not.
In order to guarantee a minimum level of knowledge you should add to your application, the sooner the better, documents indicating that people in your situation are in danger at home. Keep a copy of these documents like all other asylum procedure documents.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.