To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department has taken to enable remote asylum interviews for unaccompanied children where a responsible adult must be present.
29 January 2021
Following the suspension of asylum interviews at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 the Home Office worked on implementing plans to restart asylum interviews as soon as it was safe to do so.
Adult interviews restarted in July 2020 and interviews involving unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) and young people restated in September 2020 (where a responsible adult must be present).
The Home Office has continued to develop use of remote digital interviewing to complement existing face to face interviews. The Home Office has successfully completed a remote interviewing proof of concept with Kent County Council. The Home Office is already engaged in working with all UK Local Authorities to roll out remote interviewing of UASC and young people nationally, where there is agreement to help expand capacity and capability.
Additionally, children who claim asylum are asked to complete a Statement of Evidence Form (SEF). The information contained in SEF will be used alongside all of the other evidence already held about the claim to help determine whether or not it is appropriate to omit an asylum interview.
The criteria for when a substantive asylum interview can be omitted are contained in Paragraph 339NA of the Immigration Rules and include cases where we are able to take a positive decision on the basis of evidence available, or if the claimant is unfit or unable to be interviewed owing to enduring circumstances beyond their control. It would be inappropriate to adopt a blanket approach to certain nationalities or groups because of the differing circumstances of each claim.