It’s asylum interview day today, accompanying a young person to an asylum interview at the Home Office. I meet the young person and their social worker at the Home Office regional office. I’m not too bad, it was about 45 minutes from where I live to this office, he lives nearly an hour and a half away. The waiting room is pretty soulless – the television screens don’t even show daytime TV! There is of course the ubiquitous Radio 2 in the background.
I can’t really do much while we’re waiting, it’s isolating enough for the young person so I don’t even want to be buried in my phone checking email. The social worker and I try and talk about something else to the young person while we wait. It doesn’t really work – the young person is so nervous, and with good cause. His father was killed and his brother almost killed before they fled their country.
We go in, it’s one of the better interviewing officers, but there’s nothing about this process you’d really call child friendly. There’s no PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) for asylum seekers so I have very little ability to intervene, even where the young person is asked why his brother – whose claim was accepted at the Tribunal – and him can’t just go back to their home country together. Some facts emerge regarding his journey that I hadn’t been aware of – that’s going to cause some problems and you can see my client knows it. Three and a half hours later and we’re done. He travels home, and I’ll see him as soon as I can to try and make some representations to improve the position for what looks like an inevitable appeal. Then we wait.
Working as a legal aid lawyer at a Law Centre, I have recently paid off the debts from my law degree and LPC, some 10 years after graduating. The bottom line means it’s so hard for firms to take the time needed with vulnerable clients, such as young people going through the asylum process, so they don’t get the level of service they need.