Asylum: Coronavirus

Home Office written question – answered on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party, Belfast South

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to limit the spread of covid-19 during the process of claiming asylum for asylum seekers in the UK.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously. As part of our response to COVID-19, we have introduced regional intake units to allow asylum claims to be registered in a safe way that adheres to social distancing guidance and minimises travel. These are contingency measures put in place to allow asylum claims to be registered in a safe manner and ensure those that are at immediate risk of destitution can access support.

Following guidance from Public Health England, Asylum Operations initially cancelled all face-to-face substantive asylum interviews. We are now in a position where we can ensure safe social distancing of our staff, customers and have started to issue invitations to interview using video conferencing in small numbers with an expectation that interview volumes will increase over the coming weeks, including those taking place face to face.

Additional work is still be being taken forward to ensure we can make the best use of technology and increase flexibility and capacity in a way that enhances both the staff and customer experience. We remain committed to an interview process that allows all participants - applicants, representatives, interpreters and interviewers - to do so safely.

Asylum Operations are continuing to make and serve decisions on cases where there is enough information to do so. We are continuing to review these on a case by case basis, ensuring those with significant safeguarding concerns or vulnerabilities are only served if appropriate to do so.

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